Business expenses


Many employees are likely to have expenses related to their professional activity. This is the case, for example, for executives, salespeople or employees who have to travel in Switzerland or abroad to visit clients or company branches. Telephone, Internet, clothing and business meal expenses are also common.

Expenses borne by the employer

According to the Swiss Code of Obligations, the employer is obliged to reimburse all expenses incurred in the course of work and, if the employee is away on business, the expenses necessary for his or her maintenance.

In practice, the distinction between professional expenses that must be reimbursed by the employer and non-professional expenses that must be paid by the employee is delicate. To name but a few: travel expenses, work permit renewal, business meal expenses or even accommodation or meal expenses during business trips often create problems.

Ongoing training

Whether requested by the employee or required by the employer, ongoing training is essential to remain competitive. The question of who should cover the costs of training and whether the salary is paid is sometimes delicate. In certain situations, the employer is not obliged to cover the entire cost of ongoing training.

Business trips

Some employees are required to travel throughout Switzerland or abroad to meet customers or to company branches. The employer is obliged to cover all additional costs incurred by such business trips. While the reimbursement of the airfare is not a problem, the question of the coverage of certain expenses is more difficult to decide.

Release of the duty to work

The obligation to reimburse business expenses remains in principle until the end of the notice period. When the employee is released from his obligation to work, the situation changes because he should not have any expenses to claim from his employer anymore.


Less time-consuming travel, less stress for employees: telecommuting seems to have everything going for it. When working from home, many employees use their private phone or laptop and their internet connection. The employer will have to deal with the issue of expense reimbursement.

Private/professional use

Employers sometimes ask their employees to use their private phone, car or laptop for business purposes, in order to simplify matters and avoid having to conclude a phone or internet subscription or a leasing contract.

Employees sometimes use work equipment for private purposes, such as sending messages or making personal calls from the work phone or going away for the weekend with their company car.

Such situations can quickly become complex and lead to abuse. The employer, in order to pay only the professional expenses, will want to consult the list of calls on the phone or control the movements of the company car. There is a high risk of violating the employee's privacy and of incurring liability if this issue is not resolved beforehand.


The employer sometimes pays for some of the employee's expenses, without being obligated to do so. For example, the employer may cover part of the employee's health insurance or transportation costs. During an economic crisis, these are often the first costs that the employer seeks to reduce or eliminate.

In some cases, this is a substantial or contractual modification of the employment contract. The employer will have to go through the procedure of modification-leave. 

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1 Mar, 2010 byMarianne Favre Moreillon