Working time


The work schedule must meet strict legal requirements. The employer must provide mandatory breaks. The length of a workday is limited. The employer must respect a certain rest period between the end of one workday and the beginning of the next.

Depending on the working hours agreed upon, the work will be done during the day, in the evening or at night. These three types of working hours are not subject to the same rules. The employer will often have to ask for permission from the competent authority and also grant specific vacations or rest periods.

The health of certain employees is sometimes more fragile, in particular that of young workers, pregnant women and nursing mothers. Certain working hours are prohibited or limited for them.


The work schedule is set by the employer at the time of hiring. Subsequently, the company's needs may change.

A modification during the course of the contract is possible. The employer often has to apply for a modification-leave when the change in working hours is not initiated by the employee. Modification-leave is subject to strict formal and substantive conditions. If the employer does not respect these conditions, he/she may have to pay compensation to his/her employee.

Variable working hours

Variable working hours occur when the employee can determine, within certain limits, the beginning and end of his or her workday and the length of his or her lunch break. This schedule allows employees to better balance their private and professional lives.

It presents its own problems. The employee sometimes accumulates positive or negative hours within the framework of variable working hours. The compensation of these hours is subject to specific rules. In particular, a distinction must be made between overtime and additional hours worked under variable working hours.

Fluctuating working hours

The purpose of fluctuating working hours is to allow the employee's weekly working hours to fluctuate within certain limits depending on the economic situation and the volume of work. The employees' salaries do not vary. At the end of the year, in principle, the hours less worked are compensated by the hours worked in excess.

Fluctuating working hours can only be implemented if a collective labor agreement allows it. This is the case with the Collective Labor Agreement for the Swiss Watch and Microtechnology Industries.

Shift work

Shift work occurs when several groups of workers take turns at the same workstation according to a specific schedule. There are usually day, evening and night shifts in succession. Such a schedule is particularly tiring for the employees. It must respect specific and strict rules.

On-call work

Mostly present in the fields of sales or catering, on-call work is favored by certain companies. The employer proposes missions to the worker, who is free to accept or not. The employer does not make any commitment as to the duration and schedule of the work.

When the employer does not need the services of the on-call worker, he or she often does not call him or her at all or very little. The question then arises as to how to pay for the time spent waiting. Faced with the precariousness of this type of work, the Federal Court has set limits. The employer is obliged to respect the legal leave period and cannot always simply stop calling on the worker.


When the employee works hours in excess of his or her work schedule at the employer's request, this is called overtime. The employee is obliged to work overtime if the company needs it. The employee is entitled to appropriate compensation.

However, there are specific situations in which the employee may refuse to work overtime. Some employees may waive their right to overtime compensation.

Recording of working hours

The Labor Act provides for strict rules to be observed regarding rest periods, schedules and breaks. In order to ensure that these rules are respected, the employer has an obligation to register the working time of his or her employees. This obligation concerns in particular the working hours performed, breaks and overtime.

Some employees may benefit from a simplified registration or waive any registration of working hours.

Public holidays

An employee is entitled to time off on public holidays that fall on a regular working day. The employer must pay the employee's salary. There are some situations that raise special issues. If the employee does not normally work on Mondays, is he or she entitled to Easter Monday pay?


Telecommuting is a popular way to avoid tedious commuting and to improve work-life balance. The employer has less control over the employee's schedule. There is a risk that the employee will take advantage of telecommuting to spend time with his or her family and then make up for lost time in the evening, at night or on the weekend...

The employer is still bound by his or her obligation to record working hours and breaks. The employer must take measures to maintain control over working hours.

Retirement age

Some employees, by personal choice or for financial reasons, decide to continue working after retirement age. The employer must take into account the employee's health condition, which may become failing.

A reduction in working hours is often indicated. This is of particular importance to the employer because the employee will often no longer be covered by loss of earnings insurance. The employer will have to pay the employee's salary for a certain period of time in case of an inability to work.

Religion and work

The employer is required to protect and respect the religious freedom of his or her employees. Under certain conditions, the employer must give employees time off to attend religious holidays that do not fall on public holidays. The question then arises as to the compensation for the time off when granted by the employer.

However, the situation is delicate when the employee's religious obligations regularly conflict with his or her work schedule, particularly during daily prayers or participation in weekly worship services. The balance between religion and work is sometimes difficult to find.


Self-employment is characterized by a great deal of freedom for the individual in terms of work schedules, work to be done and organization. However, care must be taken. Some activities are limited and can be considered as salaried, even if the work schedule is not fixed. 

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1 Mar, 2010 byMarianne Favre Moreillon