Under the employment contract, the employee undertakes to provide a service for the employer. The employer is obliged to pay the employee a salary in return.
In principle, the employer and employee are free to negotiate the salary. As a rule, this remuneration is only due when the employee actually works. There are numerous exceptions to these principles.
The freedom of contract with regard to wages is limited by the prohibition of discrimination. An employer may not grant a lower salary to a woman or to a cross-border employee unless the salary difference is based on an objective criterion.
In order to avoid jealousy and tension, some companies provide that employees may not discuss their salary with their colleagues. Such an obligation is potentially contrary to the Equality Act between Women and Men.
Payment of salary at the end of the month does not always allow the employee to meet his financial obligations. He or she will be entitled to an advance of salary in certain circumstances.
The Labour Act provides that a breastfeeding woman has the right to take breaks to breastfeed or express milk at work. These breaks must be paid.
During maternity leave, the employee receives loss of earnings benefits. There is a ceiling on the amount of this benefit, which penalizes women in management or with high salaries. The employer will sometimes have to supplement the employee's salary.
On-call work is popular with companies that need auxiliary personnel because it allows them to make no commitment to the duration or hours of work. However, this does not mean that the employer can suddenly stop calling an employee without paying him or her.
Non-culpable impediment to work
The Code of Obligations requires the employer to pay the salary of an employee who is unable to work for a limited period of time. This obligation only applies if the incapacity is inherent to the employee's personality. Many questions arise in special situations.
What happens if the employee is stranded abroad due to a natural disaster or a pandemic? Or when they are quarantined? What is the right to salary for the care of a sick child?
Loss of earnings due to illness insurance
Sometimes employers take out a group insurance policy for daily allowances for their employees. Provided that this insurance meets several conditions, the employer is no longer obliged to pay the employee's salary in the event of incapacity for work due to illness.
During certain economic crises or special events, the operations of certain companies are severely disrupted. The employer may have a shortage of raw materials, be out of stock or the weather may prevent employees from doing their work.
Under certain conditions, the employer will have to pay the salary of his/her employees even if he or she cannot assign tasks to them.
During an unpaid leave, the employee has no obligation to work and no right to wages. This has an impact on social security contributions and entitlement to salary in the event of incapacity to work.
Employees have the right to go on strike under certain circumstances. If they do so, the employer is under no obligation to pay them their wages.
The Code of Obligations provides that employees are entitled to customary days off in the event of important family events, such as the death of a relative or a wedding. The employee's salary entitlement during these vacations depends on the collective labor agreement, an agreement between the parties or custom.
While all employees are in principle entitled to time off on public holidays, not all employees are entitled to equal pay during this period.
As the end of the year approaches, employees often look forward to the payment of the thirteenth salary to contribute to the year-end expenses. If the employer has made a commitment to do so, the payment of the thirteenth salary is mandatory. However, the amount may be reduced in special situations.
An exceptional payment, the bonus depends in principle on the goodwill of the employer. However, if the bonus meets certain criteria, it constitutes a salary. This will be the case if the bonus constitutes a very important part of the employee's remuneration. The employer may not decide without further ado to withdraw the right to the bonus.
When summer arrives, unpaid internship offers flourish on the Internet. Such an offer is often unlawful.
Overtime and supplementary work
In principle, the employer must pay overtime and supplementary work done by the employee. Whether a 25% surcharge should be applied depends on whether it is overtime or supplementary work and what the parties have agreed.
In addition, executives and people in high managerial positions are expected to work more hours than the rest of the employees. The issue of their overtime and supplementary work is subject to specific rules.
In order to promote employee rest, the employer must grant holidays to his or her employees and pay their salaries during this period.
In exceptional circumstances, the employer may pay the vacation allowance each month with the employee's salary or replace the holidays with a financial allowance.
Many employees are required to travel within Switzerland or even abroad in the course of their duties. The question of their remuneration, in particular during travel, business meals or weekends, is subject to specific rules.
Release from the obligation to work
When the employee is released from his or her obligation to work, the employer remains obliged to pay his or her salary during the leave period. The employer may, under certain conditions, deduct the remuneration that the employee receives from a new employer during this period.
When the employer is in an economic crisis or when he demotes an employee, he or she may wish to reduce his or her salary. The employer will have to follow the rules applicable to the modification-leave. When these modification-leaves concern a large number of employees, the employer must also respect the procedure for mass redundancies.
In the context of the strong franc crisis, some companies have decided to reduce the salary of only cross-border employees or to pay them in euros. This is likely to be considered unlawful.
Registration of working hours
In principle, the employer must register the working hours, overtime and breaks of his or her employees. The registration of working time can be waived under certain conditions, in particular when the employee's remuneration exceeds a certain threshold.