Public holidays


August 1st, the national holiday, is the only federal holiday common to all of Switzerland. Each canton has the right to designate a certain number of additional holidays per year. These public holidays are comparable to Sundays.


The purpose of public holidays is to allow employees to participate in religious or traditional celebrations in their canton. In principle, the employer cannot ask the employee to work on this day.

However, under certain conditions, the employer may request an exemption from the competent authorities. It should be noted that some companies are allowed to employ their employees without authorization on public holidays.


According to the Federal Constitution, August 1st is a mandatory paid holiday for all employees. The situation is more difficult for the cantonal holidays.

Most employees will be entitled to their wages on the holidays. This will not always be the case, especially for employees paid by the hour or by the job.

Days generally not worked

In some years, certain holidays fall on a Saturday or Sunday or on a day not usually worked.

Can an employee request a day off or pay when August 1st falls on a Sunday? Is an employee who normally works Tuesday through Friday entitled to be paid on Fast Monday?

Compensatory work

The employer cannot unilaterally impose on his employees that they compensate for a holiday by working overtime. At the employee's request, especially if the employee is not paid during the holiday, the employer may agree that the employee makes up for the lost hours.


In principle, if the employee is sick during his/her vacation, he/she has the right to make up the time later. What about holidays? Can an employee who is bedridden with the flu on December 25 request an extra day off?


Sometimes a public holiday falls during the employee's vacation. Will the public holiday be deducted from the employee's vacation entitlement? Is the situation the same if the public holiday falls on a Sunday?


If the employee does not work in the same place as the company's headquarters or if he/she works in several cantons, this is an intercantonal situation. Since the cantons are free to choose their own public holidays, the question of which public holidays the employer should grant to his employee is a delicate one.

Religious holidays

Public holidays are largely based on the traditional religions of the cantons, namely Catholic and Protestant. In order to allow employees of different faiths to celebrate their religious holidays, the Labor Act grants them the right to time off to attend.

Employees must notify their employer a certain number of days in advance. In principle, they will have to make up the lost work time within a certain period of time. 

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1 Mar, 2010 byMarianne Favre Moreillon