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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.

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CROSS-BORDER WORKERS

Switzerland and France further extend tax benefits for cross-border workers

Switzerland has again extended a set of beneficial tax arrangements for cross-border workers living in France until November, although not everyone is happy.

Switzerland and France further extend tax benefits for cross-border workers

The rules were originally put in place during the Covid pandemic, when various laws and regulations in Switzerland and elsewhere encouraged people to work from home. 

Alongside these rules, the Swiss and French governments changed the underlying tax rules to encourage people to work from home. 

These rules were originally put in place in March 2020, but have been extended several times and will now expire on October 31st. 

What are the rules? 

Under normal circumstances, anyone living in France who works in Switzerland can spend no more than 25 percent of their time working from home. 

READ MORE: Why French cross-border workers choose to work in Switzerland

If they exceed this time limit, they would have to pay social security contributions and tax charges tin France rather than in Switzerland, which would be much higher.

The agreements between France and Switzerland – along with several other countries where people resident in France work like Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany – “provide that days worked at home because of the recommendations and health instructions related to the Covid-19 pandemic may … be considered as days worked in the state where [workers] usually carry out their activity and therefore remain taxable,” according to the statement from the French Employment Ministry.

In June, cross-border worker advocates called for the agreements to be extended. 

Companies in France’s Haute-Savoie region, where most of cross-border workers employed in Geneva come from, are upset, claiming that home-office agreement makes working in Switzerland even more attractive for French workers, at the detriment of local businesses.

According to Christophe Coriou, head of the Haute-Savoie section of French employers, “these agreements accentuate the competitive disadvantage” of French companies compared to Swiss jobs — in terms of salaries, but also lower taxes and other perks.

“By emptying them of their human resources, Geneva penalises companies in Haute-Savoie”,  Coriou  said, adding that “teleworking of cross-border workers, which is perceived as an additional attraction to the salary, accentuates the competitive disadvantage of companies in neighbouring France”.

What about other countries? 

Switzerland is heavily reliant on cross-border workers, with an estimated 340,000 crossing daily from France, Germany and Italy into Switzerland to work. 

About 90,000 workers from France are employed in Geneva, but there is no official data on how many still work from home.

Italy and Switzerland signed an agreement relating to cross-border workers in March.

Germany also has its own agreement with Switzerland. 

More information about the rules in place can be found at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: What cross-border workers should know about taxation in Switzerland

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