For members


Can a third-country national resident in the EU work in Switzerland?

Switzerland has strict rules about who is allowed to work in the country, but sometimes these regulations can be confusing to foreigners.

Can a third-country national resident in the EU work in Switzerland?
When it comes to employment, Switzerland and the EU have a special agreement. Photo: François WALSCHAERTS / AFP

If you are a foreign national living in Switzerland, you probably know who has and doesn’t have the right to be employed here.

As a general rule, Swiss employers are allowed to hire two groups of foreign workers without much administrative or bureaucratic hassles: citizens of European Union states, as well as those from EFTA countries — that is, from Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

These workers have an almost unlimited access to Switzerland’s employment market.

In fact, they don’t even need a permit if they work here for up to three months.

For a longer period, they must apply for — and usually get without much ado — a permit from the Swiss commune where they live.

Depending on the kind of employment contract they have, they will receive either a B or L permit.

READ ALSO: Residence permits: How EU and EFTA citizens can live, work and stay in Switzerland

What about people from outside the EU / EFTA?

Rules and procedures are more complicated for people from outside the EU, often known as ‘third-country nationals’.

Unlike people from the EU / EFTA states, who have a nearly limitless access to Switzerland’s labour market, those from outside Europe have more hurdles to overcome in terms of work permits.

The reason is that permits for this group of foreigners are subject to quotas and strict rules.

According to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), “admission of third-state nationals to the Swiss labour market is only granted if it is in the interests of Switzerland and the Swiss economy as a whole”.

This means that permits / visas will be granted only to highly skilled specialists who can’t be recruited from among Swiss or EU / EFTA workforce.

What happens if a third-country national lives in an EU or EFTA state? Can they be employed in Switzerland under the same rules?

The mere fact of living within the European Union, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein, doesn’t give these people the right to work and reside in Switzerland on the same basis as their EU / EFTA counterparts.

They are still subject to quotas and the above-mentioned rules.

This right is reserved only for ‘citizens’ or ‘nationals’ of EU / EFTA countries, not everyone who happens to live there, according to SEM.

This is the case even if you have a residence permit for an EU / EFTA state — such a permit doesn’t extend to Switzerland.

What are the exceptions?

There are, however, two exceptions to this rule.

One is if a third-country national also has a citizenship from the EU / EFTA ; in other words, if a UK person is also a national of France, or a US citizen gets a Norwegian passport, then these people are no longer considered by Switzerland as third-country citizens, but rather as part of the big EU / EFTA family.

Another exemption would be a cross-border commuter (G permit holder) who is third country national, but holds a permanent residence permit in France, Germany, Italy, or Austria, and has been living in the border region of that country for at least six months.

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For members


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.”