Covid restrictions see Swiss working hours fall even further

Switzerland regularly ranks among the wealthiest countries, per capita, in the world. As wages continue on a long term upwards trajectory, the average number of working hours are falling.

An alarm clock ticks. The Swiss are working significantly less now than in 2010.
The Swiss are working significantly less now than in 2010. (Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash)

According to figures released by the Federal Statistics Office (OFS) this month, the Swiss are working significantly less now than in 2010. 

To mitigate for the effect of Covid-19, the study analysed two key periods: 2010-2019 (pre-pandemic) and 2010-2020 (which includes the impact of the pandemic). 

It found that Swiss residents were working 3.9 percent fewer hours less in 2019 compared to 2010. Factoring the impact of Covid-19 restrictions, the figures showed that there was a 7.2 percent decrease in working hours (approximately 14 days) in 2020 compared to 2010. 

READ ALSO: Salaries in Switzerland: In which sectors have wages increased the most?

In a report published by the statisticians, the reduction in working hours is due to a variety of factors, including the rise of part-time work, an increase in holidays taken, and a decline in overtime. 

Strikingly, the figures showed that the pre-pandemic decline in working hours was significantly larger for men (5.2 percent) than for women (1.1 percent). 

Covid-19 restrictions led to a further decrease in working hours on certain kinds of economic activity and consequent unemployment.

Hospitality and restaurant sectors were worst affected, with workers seeing an average reduction in working hours of 22.2 percent from 2019-2020. 

The OECD’s latest forecast summary for Switzerland, conducted in May 2021, projected relatively low GDP growth (3.2 percent in 2021 and 2.9 percent in 2022) compared to some of the country’s neighbours, including France. This growth, according to the organisation, can only be achieved with the easing of Covid-19 containment measures. 

How does Switzerland compare to other European countries?

Pre-pandemic, Switzerland had one of Europe’s steepest decline in working hours since 2010, behind Slovakia, Croatia, Malta, Slovenia and Estonia. But the country did far surpass the EU average decline (2.4 percent) during the 2010-19 period. 

READ ALSO Working remotely from Switzerland: What are the rules for foreigners?

Perhaps due to flexible remote working arrangements and other measures, the decline of working hours from 2019-20, as the pandemic took hold in Switzerland, was not as high in Switzerland as in many other European countries.

During this period, several European countries saw a steeper decline in working hours than in Switzerland (3.4 percent), including Italy (9.1 percent), Austria (7.2 percent), France (7.2 percent), Spain (6.5 percent) and Germany (3.7 percent), as well as 11 other nations.

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What are your rights to time off in Switzerland if your child is ill?

Certain countries are more generous than others when it comes to allowing workers to take time off if their child is ill. What does Switzerland allow?

What are your rights to time off in Switzerland if your child is ill?

Under Swiss law, employees working in Switzerland with care responsibilities are entitled – under certain conditions – to take time off work and fulfil their duties towards their children or relatives.

According to the Swiss Code of Obligations the general rule is that a parent is entitled to up to three days of paid leave per incident to look after their sick child and up to 10 paid days each year in total.

What do I do if my child falls ill?

It is important to bear in mind that even with the Swiss law on your side, you will need to follow a few simple steps before taking time off work to care for your sick child.

In principle, taking time off to care for a sick child is no different from taking time off when you are ill yourself.

In either case, you must notify your employer as soon as possible. If you present a doctor’s certificate to your employer, they must grant you up to three days’ paid leave to look after your ill child.

Because of Switzerland’s rather formal working culture, you will usually need to give your boss a ring to let them know your child is ill, but this can vary from workplace to workplace and some companies may be okay with an e-mail instead.

In some workplaces, employees may be allowed to work from home, so if your child’s illness doesn’t prevent you from working altogether, you can ask if this is an option for you (but don’t strain yourself if a lot of help is required).

However, while you shouldn’t be put off from taking a leave when you need it, for minor sicknesses – such as the cold or a flu – most companies will expect to be notified every morning whether you will be working that day.

If you are absent for more than three days due to your child’s illness, you must present additional doctor’s certificate stating the date of the examination (after the initial three days) but not the diagnosis. The latter is subject to strict medical confidentiality in Switzerland.

READ MORE: What to do if you need a sick day in Switzerland

Do I run the risk of losing wages?

If you are employed and unable to perform work due to your child’s illness, then your employer will be required to pay your salary for a period of time based on the duration of your employment and whether your company has a sickness benefit insurance for employees – just as they would if you yourself were to fall ill.

Swiss employment law only mandates that employers offer basic paid sick leave: generally, three weeks in your first year in the job, rising with each additional year to around four months maximum, depending on the canton.

However, many Swiss employers take out insurance that covers a more generous sick pay deal. Individuals can also take out such insurance for themselves, including if they’re freelancers or unemployed.

But while most employers in Switzerland have this insurance, some don’t. If you happen to work for the latter kind, you will continue to get your salary but for a very limited period: three weeks in the first year of employment, with increases for every additional year, up to a maximum of four months.

This period does, however, vary depending on the canton.

Could I be fired?

Employees are protected against dismissal during their entitlement to care leave for a maximum of six months.

READ MORE: Reader question: Does my Swiss employer have a right to fire me when I’m sick?

What happens if my child falls ill several times in a row?

If a child is sick several times in a row or if several children need to be cared for, one parent can stay at home for up to three working days per case of illness and per child.

Parents are required to organise care for their child during this time if the illness lasts longer or, alternatively, take vacation days until their child recovers.

What happens if my child has a chronic illness or is severely ill?

Parents whose child has a serious health impairment and needs more care are entitled to care allowance and paid leave for a maximum of 14 weeks if certain conditions are met.

To classify as a serious illness, the child’s health must have deteriorated dramatically — in other words, a severe physical or mental illness, which doesn’t include broken legs or arms for example.

The care leave must be taken within a period of 18 months after receipt of the first daily allowance and can last a maximum of 14 weeks. Employees can take the care leave either all at once or on a weekly or daily basis.

The daily allowance amounts to 80 percent of the average gross income before the start of the care leave, but is capped at a maximum of 196 francs per day.

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in Switzerland compares to other countries in Europe

Care leave is also granted if one parent works or if one or both parents work part-time. If both parents are employed, each parent is entitled to seven weeks of childcare leave.

However, you can also agree on a different distribution of your care leave. It is also possible for the parents to take their share of the leave at the same time. The employer does not have to approve the change in distribution, but must be informed about the childcare leave arrangement.

Two sum up, these are, per government, general rules:

“A worker may be absent to look after a sick child on the condition that they provide the employer with a doctor’s certificate. The period during which the worker is unable to work may be up to three days, depending on the age and health of the sick child. Some circumstances however, require a longer absence. In that case, the salary is due for a limited period, according to the same rules as those applicable in the case of a worker not covered by insurance (see above). However, parents must try to find alternatives, barring exceptional cases.”