I am dissatisfied with my work reference, what can I do?

Every employee has the right to complain about a work reference. Normally, we can come to an agreement about this in an open discussion, the final instance is a court of law.

Can I also request a work reference for a short period of employment?

Yes, every employee has the right to obtain a work reference at any time. If specifically requested by the employee, the work reference can be produced as a simple certificate of employment (limited to the nature and duration of the employment relationship).

CO 330a

Must I accept the fact that my employer only wishes to write a certificate of employment for me?

As a matter of principle, no. The Swiss Code of Obligations (CO) prescribes that every employee has the right to demand a work reference at any time. A certificate of employment is issued if specifically so requested by the employee.

CO 330a

How can I see whether my work reference has been written in an encoded way?

As law states that work references are to be formulated "in a truthful and benevolent way", many bosses use codes. But it has also been seen that, as there is no standardised key for such "codes", a code is assumed behind practically every work reference.

Therefore, a discussion with the superior before the work reference is written is recommended, in order to ask him to write the work reference unencoded and if applicable to make a matching remark.

What are typical codes when work references are written?

There is no standardised key for codes. Although there are some such code lists around, they are also not standardised.

One thing is clear: a short work reference if you have worked for the company for years, no good wishes for the future and the emphasis of trivia or omission of important areas are strong indications of the fact that they were not satisfied with your performance.

Is a future employer allowed to demand an extract from my register of previous convictions?

The question of the register of previous convictions is only admissible for a future employer if a possible previous conviction makes the applicant unsuitable for the post offered. For example, this affects a person sentenced for offences against property who is applying for a post as an accountant.

CO 328

Is a future employer allowed to inquire about a pregnancy?

As a matter of principle, an employer is not allowed to inquire about a pregnancy. Employees may not be directly or indirectly discriminated against as a result of their gender (Equal Treatment Act) - so a pregnancy may not lead to the unequal treatment of the applicant in question.

However, if the activity is connected with a higher risk for mother and child or if exercising it is made impossible by a pregnancy, the applicant has the duty to inform the employer.

When may an employee be dismissed without notice?

As a matter of principle, there are the following cases which may lead to dismissal without notice: refusal to work and taking leave high-handedly without the superior's consent, committing crimes in the company such as theft, embezzlement or sexual harassment as well as competition to the employer's company or enticing personnel away.

In other cases, a warning must be issued beforehand, for example permanent absence from work, arriving too late, deliberately poor performance etc.

CO 337

Freedom of personal movement CH - EU

In 1999, Switzerland concluded a Freedom of Movement Treaty (FZA) with the European Union (EU) and its then 15 Member States, the objective of which is gradually introducing the freedom of movement of foreigners coming from the countries in question. In the same year, an identical treaty was signed between Switzerland and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and its Member States. In 2004, Switzerland concluded a protocol on extended freedom of personal movement with ten new Member States of the EU, valid from 1 May 2004. In 2008, the same was negotiated with Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU on 1 January 2007. EU/EFTA citizens no longer need a work permit in order to start work with an employer domiciled in Switzerland, but only a residence or border-crossing permit. The wage and working conditions are no longer checked in this regard, although preference for Swiss citizens is taking effect on 1 July 2018.

The liberalisation applies to the following EU and EFTA states:

  • EU-17/EFTA: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Spain, United Kingdom, Cyprus.

  • EU-8: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary

  • BG/RO: Bulgaria, Romania.
When must my employer pay me my commission at the latest?

In standard cases, wages are to be paid at the end of the month. The same point also applies to commissions. On the other hand, a share in the business showings is normally disbursed annually. Here, the payment must be made by 6 months after the close of the fiscal year at the latest.

CO 322

How long may a probation period last at the most?

According to the CO, the first month of an employment relationship is to be regarded as a probation period. This probation period may be extended to 3 months at the most. During the probation period, a period of notice of 7 days applies to both parties.

After this maximum of 3 months, it should be clear to both parties whether or not they wish to continue the employment relationship. But if the employee cannot work (illness, accident, military service, civilian protection), the probation period can be extended by this term. This list can also be extended contractually (e.g. holidays).

CO 335

Does dismissal protection - for example for illness - also apply during the probation period?

No dismissal protection on account of illness or accident through no fault of the employee applies during the probation period.

Which payment can I demand or how can I find out what is customary?

Most kinds of professions have formed associations, which can give information about wages customary for the location or branch. Naturally, the amount of a salary always also depends on experience, the field of activity and the task in question.

Which allowances can I pass on to my employer?

In principle, an employer is obliged to reimburse an employee for all costs as a result of performing his work, i.e. directly and immediately connected with his activity.

In particular, these include telephone charges, travelling expenses, accommodation and catering during employment at a workplace separate from the company and the place of residence. The employee for his/her part must state the expenditure to be reimbursed in detail and provide justification.

CO 327

Is it correct that my employer decides when and for how long I can take leave?

This point has been regulated in Article 329, CO. The employer can determine the time, but must also take the employee's wishes into account to the extent compatible with the company's interests. The minimum duration has also been clearly regulated. As a rule, leave is to be granted in the course of the working year in question.

CO 329

How many weeks of leave can I take per year?

The duration of leave depends on age: up to the age of 20, this is at least 5 weeks, after that 4 weeks per year. For incomplete working years, leave is granted in accordance with the duration of the employment relationship. Some companies grant their employees 5 weeks of leave once they have turned 50.

CO 329

Am I entitled to leave if I am working part-time?

Yes. If you have been employed with a monthly salary, you have just as much leave as a full-time employee. Often, especially with employees with hourly wages, leave is settled as remuneration based on the hourly wage.

CO 329

Which periods of notice apply as a matter of principle?

According to Article 334 CO, the following directives apply: a temporary employment relationship ends without notice. If a temporary employment relationship is tacitly renewed after the agreed duration, it is deemed a permanent employment relationship.

For the latter, the following holds after the probation period: one month during the first working year, two months during the second to ninth working years and three months from the tenth working year onwards. As a matter of principle, these periods of notice can be extended.

CO 334/335

What can I do about mobbing?

Mental harassment or "mobbing" means forms of conduct or expressions which are systematically aimed against a certain person by one or more employees. These machinations have to take place repeatedly and regularly over a relatively long period of time. In addition, they must have the objective of ostracizing the person in question, considerably unsettling him/her or even ousting him/her from the workplace. Mental harassment is not only done by superiors or by people in a hierarchically higher position than the victims (descending mobbing), it can also come about between equally placed colleagues (horizontal mobbing) and also be aimed against superiors (ascending mobbing).

Naturally, an attempt can be made to find help with a superior or the head of HR. But the important thing is not to assume a conspiracy behind every problem in the department or in the team.

In my application, should I state that I was mobbed in my previous company?

In applications, we recommend – despite often justified bitterness about what happened in your previous company – saying or writing as little as possible about this. But state the motivation for your job change sincerely.

Do not apply explicitly as a mobbing victim, but primarily with interest in your new task.

In the application interview, do not go on about the problems in your previous company, but explain the reasons making you look for a new job objectively and briefly and remain objective in doing this at all costs (no sweeping swipes at your previous team colleagues or the employer).