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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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WORKING IN SWITZERLAND

Five of the best co-working spaces in Switzerland’s big cities

Since the pandemic co-working spaces have boomed bringing together freelancers, entrepreneurs and even full-time employees. So we've picked out five of the best in Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Lausanne and Bern.

Five of the best co-working spaces in Switzerland's big cities

More than just a trend: Co-working spaces have grown and established themselves across Switzerland. Not least since a certain pandemic have employers realised that staff working outside the office on a 9–5 schedule can be at least as productive (if not more) as they were before the work-from-home boom.

Not surprisingly then that more and more co-working spaces are popping up within Switzerland, allowing entrepreneurs, freelancers, and even full-time employees to choose the best working environment for their needs.

Tessinerplatz, Zurich

One of Zurich’s most popular co-working spaces, the Tessinerplatz offers modern meeting rooms for rent, an inspiring working environment and to top it all off, the (self-proclaimed) best public coffee bar in Zurich’s city centre.

Aspiring co-workers can choose from among five options, the Flex Desk (CHF 130/day), the Fix Desk (CHF 600/month) and the Student or Senior Desk (CHF 65+/month).

The Tessinerplatz also offers young entrepreneurs a special deal on the so-called Startup Desk, with the first month being free of charge and the 2nd to 4th months being priced at 40 percent less than the original fee. Normal pricing for the Startup Desk applies from month five.

Those choosing to book a desk at Tessinerplatz can enjoy a multitude of perks, such as free coffee and beer, free use of e-bikes and a free community membership.

You can also book a tour of the place prior to formally booking a spot or alternatively, do a trial day entirely free of charge!

Impact Hub, Basel

The Impact Hub describes itself as a community of purpose-driven members working towards the Sustainable Development Goals and making a positive impact in the world. The co-working spaces were specifically designed to support social entrepreneurs and sustainable innovators in the city, so if you feel passionate about making a difference while getting the most out of your workday, then the Impact Hub would make a great fit.

The Impact Hub is based in Basel’s up-and-coming Dreispitz district and offers workers the Starter (CHF 135/month), Medium (CHF 215/month) and Nomad (CHF 395/month) packs.

As part of all three, workers will have 24/7 access to high-speed Wi-Fi, a printer and scanner, and even a mini library. The facilities also include a kitchen with free coffee and a weekly networking offer with croissants.

Gotham, Lausanne

Gotham offers Switzerland’s biggest co-working spaces and aims to foster innovation between start-ups and corporate businesses. If you’re looking to work near the city centre, Gotham’s Lausanne Gare – located just minutes from the train station – may be your best bet.

Described as a “city within a city”, the eco-responsible Lausanne Gare offers workers high-tech meeting rooms, high-speed Wi-Fi, a secured area, and unlimited printers. For those looking for some downtime as well as productivity, Lausanne Gare’s facilities also come with a chill and fun zone as well as free Nespresso coffee.

Spaces, Geneva

If you’re hoping to work side by side with like-minded entrepreneurs in flexible shared offices, then Spaces in Geneva’s Quai De L’Ile, just opposite the Place de Bel-Air, is the place to be.

The fully renovated and low energy consumption building has nine meeting rooms, 29 dedicated desks, accessibility, multiple breakout areas, and is fully serviced.

Co-workers can opt for a monthly membership which will set you back CHF 349 for a full month, CHF 219 per person for 10 days, or CHF 145 for 5 days.

For those not into hot desking and with money to splurge, you can also book a “dedicated desk” in a beautifully designed shared workspace for CHF 875 a month. This option will also give you your own personal locker as well as 24/7 access.

Zentroom, Bern

Based inside Bern’s train station, zentroom impresses with its modern infrastructure and stunning views over Switzerland’s capital.

In addition to free drinks and fruit, co-workers can choose from a half or full day pass (CHF 29/45) which gives you access to a 1,100-square metres open space or common area – however, beware! This option is on a strict first come, first served basis and spaces fill up quickly. If you’re looking to save money on your half or full day pass, then buying 10 passes at once will give you 10 percent off the original price. The passes themselves have no expiration date.

Those wishing to use the zentroom facilities more frequently can also invest in monthly membership plans. The Flex Desk Light (CHF 370/month) package will give you access to a shared desk space for 10 days, while workers choosing the Flex Desk package (CHF 690/month) have 24/7 access to the offices using a provided key for a whole month.

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