For members


EXPLAINED: What is the 13th-month salary in Switzerland and how is it calculated?

Most companies in Switzerland pay wages to their employees based on a 13-month system. How does this work?

Swiss cash bills seen up close
Most employees in Switzerland receive the 13th salary. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Switzerland, as with most countries, has 12 official months in the year – so why do many Swiss employees receive a 13th payment? 

Swiss salaries are among the highest in the world, attracting many workers from abroad, even though the cost of living in Switzerland is high as well.

The 13-salary system is not part of the Swiss labour law, as it is in some countries, it is more a matter of custom.

However, if it is part of the employment contract, then the company is obligated to pay it. Currently, nine out of 10 employers do so.

The 13th salary is not a bonus

When you get hired by a company that uses the 13-salary system, it means that your annual earnings are calculated on, and paid out in,13 instalments rather than 12.

Some companies don’t pay a 13th month’s salary but will pay higher monthly wages (in 12 installments) instead.

Your annual income will still be the same, it just depends on how it is divided – by 12 or 13.

Why not just pay 12 salaries?

The idea behind this system is that the 13th instalment paid out in December (in effect, two months’ salary) will help pay for Christmas expenses and other end-of-year bills.

If half of the 13th salary is paid in July, it is to help bankroll summer vacation (although of course you are free to spend it on whatever you wish). 

READ MORE: What are the best and worst paid jobs in Switzerland?

Are you entitled to 13th salary if you miss work on certain days?

If the absence is justifiable and limited in time, then yes.

For instance, if you miss work due to illness, accident, pregnancy or maternity, military service, death in the family, or other important reasons defined by Swiss employment law, you are still entitled to compensation.

What if you don’t work a full year or are paid on an hourly basis?

If you start employment or quit your job during the calendar year, the 13th month payment is paid on a pro-rata basis, in proportion to the months spent in the company.  

As for hourly workers who are also entitled to a 13th salary, they are usually paid monthly. The hourly rate is then increased by 8.33 percent.

What about bonuses?

Bonuses are independent of the 13th salary.  

Swiss law doesn’t contain any provision that specifically deals with the bonus, which may consist of money, shares, stock options in the company, or other perks. It depends entirely on the goodwill of the employer.

Typically, this should be addressed in the employment contract.

SALARIES IN SWITZERLAND: In which sectors have wages increased the most?

Here you can see how much workers in Switzerland earn on average.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Switzerland sees jump in number of job openings

The labour shortage is still impacting Switzerland’s labour market — more so in some regions than in others and in certain specific sectors.

Switzerland sees jump in number of job openings

Qualified employees are urgently needed in several sectors, mainly healthcare, IT, and engineering.

This is a finding of a new survey carried out by Adecco recruitment agency together with the Swiss Labour Market Monitor from the University of Zurich.

Why is the country still in throes of labour shortages?

On the one hand, given the very low unemployment rate (2 percent in October), the number of job seekers has decreased significantly.

On the other hand, however, this means that “the number of vacant positions increased by 7 percent compared to the previous year,” the study revealed.

Which geographical areas are most affected?

The shortage doesn’t impact all areas of Switzerland the same way, however: it is more marked in German-speaking than in French-language regions.
The former has experienced a bigger drop in the number of people looking for work, while the number of vacant positions has increased.

Most job openings are currently in the Northwest, where 2.8 percent of jobs are vacant, followed by Zurich and central Switzerland (2.6 percent).

The study also reported that if the gap persists, the shortage of employees in certain industries could “turn into a general labour shortage,” even in sectors that currently have “an oversupply of qualified personnel.”

Earlier economic forecasts also showed that even with a moderate immigration of 50,000 skilled professionals per year, up to 400,000 positions could remain vacant in Switzerland by 2030.

READ ALSO: Why is Switzerland’s chronic labour shortage worsening?