Payment of wages for a limited period

According to article 324 a of the Swiss Code of Obligations (CO) if an employee is unable to work for personal or physical reasons beyond his or her control, such as sickness, accident, childbirth, fulfilment of a legal obligation or a public duty, the employer must pay the full wage for a limited period of time including a fair indemnity for the salary in kind that has been lost. This is applicable if the employment relationship has lasted for more than three months or if it has been concluded for more than three month.

The Berne scale (see below) is the reference scale for the western part of Switzerland and the canton of Berne. The canton of Basel-Stadt uses the Basel scale (see "documents"). In the canton of Geneva, employees subject to the standard employment contract for household staff of the canton of Geneva (CTT-EDom, in French) must be insured against the risk of loss of salary in case of sickness, covering 80% of the salary for 720 days in a period of 900 days. Premiums are paid equally each month, unless a written agreement provides that the employer pays the full premium (see article 13 paragraph 1).

Scale used by the tribunals in Berne (reference scale)

  • from 0 to 1 year of employment: 3 weeks (for which wages are to be paid if works reports lasted more than three months or were concluded for more than three months)
  • as of the 1st year of employment: 1 month
  • from the 2nd to the 4th year of employment: 2 months
  • from the 5th to the 9th year of employment: 3 months
  • from the 10th to the 14th year of employment: 4 months
  • from the 15th to the 19th year of employment: 5 months
  • from the 20th to the 24th year of employment: 6 months
  • from the 25th to the 29th year of employment: 7 months
  • from the 30th to the 34th year of employment: 8 months
  • from the 35th to the 39th year of employment: 9 months
  • from the 40th to the 45th year of employment: 10 months

Insurance for loss of earnings

Unless required by law, the employer may voluntarily take out insurance against loss of earnings (daily allowance insurance) to cover the employee's salary in the event of incapacity for work due to sickness, accident or childbirth.  Employees may also take out their own insurance policies.

This type of insurance is generally not mandatory in Switzerland. However, certain standard employment contracts may provide for the obligation to take out daily sickness benefit insurance. The employer who subscribes to this insurance is released from his obligation to pay the salary provided that the benefits offered by the insurance meet the following cumulative conditions (ATF 128 II 13):

  • the daily allowance is paid for at least 720 or 730 days within a period of 900 days
  • the allowance covers at least 80% of the salary
  • at least half of the premium is paid by the employer and
  •  the waiting period without entitlement to salary is 2 to 3 days maximum.

Daily allowance usually correspond to the amount of cash wages that have been insured (salary in kind is usually not covered). In principle it is possible to cover up to 100% of the cash wages. Depending on the terms of the insurance contract, daily allowances may be paid from the first day of incapacity or after a certain lapse of time (waiting period). Each insurer can determine the conditions that are applicable.

Insurance for loss of earnings in the event of sickness is subject to the Federal Law on Health Insurance (Art. 67 to 77 LAMal, in French) or to the Federal Law on Insurance Contracts (LCA, in French), as the employer chooses. Affiliation can therefore be made with a health insurance company (supplementary benefit of the health insurance) or with an insurance company.

Generally speaking, premiums are between 1.5% and 2.5% of the cash wages, are split between employer and employee on a 50-50 basis. Premiums vary with the desired coverage (for sickness, accident or childbirth, the amount of wages insured, the time lapse, etc.) and in accordance with the conditions imposed by each insurer.

Specialist Contact

Permanent Mission of Switzerland to UNOG
Office of Privileges & immunities
Rue de Varembé 9-11
P.O. Box 194
CH-1211 Geneva 20
Tel. +41 (0)58 482 24 24
Fax +41 (0)58 482 24 37