Social insurance


Every employee is compulsorily covered by a number of social insurances. Both employer and employee must pay social security contributions each month to finance these.

The employee is covered against accidents, unemployment and invalidity. The loss of earnings insurance comes into play when the employee goes on military service, when a female employee gives birth or in certain special cases in the event of a pandemic. In addition, the old-age and survivors' insurance (AHV) and the pension fund deduct a certain amount for the employee's occupational pension. These insurances sometimes depend on the amount of the annual salary or the employee's level of activity.

Although most of these social insurances are compulsory, there are certain situations that deserve special attention.


Expatriation or detachment refers to any situation where an employee works abroad, for a certain period of time, on behalf of his or her employer in Switzerland. It is a situation of working in an international context. The question of which country the employee will be insured in depends on whether or not there is an international treaty between Switzerland and the country to which the employee is sent.

In the case of secondment to a member state of the AFMP or EFTA, the employee remains subject to social insurance in Switzerland for a certain period.

In the case of expatriation to a third country, the situation is more delicate. Under certain conditions, the employee can continue to be insured in Switzerland for most social insurance schemes. The conditions under which the employee can remain subject to Swiss social insurance vary according to the insurance in question. In some cases, the employee will have to make a specific request.

Sabbatical leave

Around the world, recreational projects, sports - there are many opportunities to have fun, but also to get injured or become incapacitated during unpaid leave.

The employee must make arrangements to remain covered by social insurance during the sabbatical. In some cases, the employee can expressly request to remain insured during this period.

Accident insurance ends automatically after a certain period without pay. As far as occupational benefits are concerned, the annual salary may fall below the minimum BVG salary. The employee will no longer be obliged to be affiliated and to pay the second pillar.

In order to receive unemployment insurance benefits, the employee must have contributed for the minimum period stipulated by law during the last 24 months. If the sabbatical is prolonged, the employee may not be entitled to unemployment benefits if he or she is dismissed.

Retirement age

Reaching retirement age is an event that can change an employee's social security coverage. If the employee wishes to continue working, he or she will remain subject to most social insurance schemes, but only for part of his or her salary. However, they will not be entitled to unemployment benefits if they lose their job.

Does the employee have to continue to contribute to the OASI and the second pillar? What influence does this have on the amount of his pension? Occupational pension issues are tricky.

Undeclared work

Undeclared work exists when a person engages in an undeclared paid activity or without a work permit.

There are many situations where employers do not declare their employees and do not pay social security contributions. In such a situation, both the employer and the employee are at risk. The situation is even more serious if the employee is a foreigner and does not have a work permit.


Internship contracts are often concluded for a short period of time. It is not necessarily subject to a written employment contract. As long as the trainee receives a salary, he or she is in principle subject to social security contributions and insurance. However, some social insurance schemes depend on the level of employment or the amount of annual salary.


In search of adventure or freedom, some employees become self-employed. Since social security contributions are often deducted from the salary, the new self-employed person is often not covered by social security.

But beware! The concept of self-employment is characterised by certain criteria such as economic and organisational independence. Only an overall analysis of these criteria will determine whether a person can validly be considered as self-employed. If the person is too dependent on one of his clients, he could be considered as an employee. The client, in reality an employer, may be obliged to pay social security contributions retroactively. 

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1 Mar, 2010 byMarianne Favre Moreillon