Through the employment contract, the employee undertakes to provide a service for the employer. The latter is obliged to pay him or her a salary. 

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 salary 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 this difference in salary 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 a salary advance in certain circumstances.


The Labor Act provides that a breastfeeding woman has the right to take breaks to breastfeed or express milk at work. These breaks must be paid.

Maternity leave

During maternity leave, the employee receives loss of earnings benefits. There is a ceiling on the amount of this benefit, which penalizes female managers. The employer may have to supplement the employee's salary.

On-call work

On-call work is popular with companies in times of crisis because it allows them neither to commit to the duration nor to working hours. 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 inability 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?

Insurance for loss of earnings due to illness

The employer may conclude a group insurance for daily allowances for his employees. In principle, he is thus released from his obligation to pay the salary in case of incapacity to work. However, there are exceptions.

Business risk

In the context of certain economic crises or special events, the operation of certain companies is 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 or her employees even if he or she cannot assign tasks to them.

Sabbatical leave

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 an inability 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 salaries. 

Customary days-off

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 holidays depends on the collective employment contract, an agreement between the parties or custom.

Public holidays

While all employees are in principle entitled to time-off on public holidays, not all employees are entitled to equal pay during this period.

Thirteenth salary

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, for example, if the bonus constitutes a very significant part of the employee's remuneration. The employer may not decide without further ado to withdraw the right to the bonus.


Summer is coming and unpaid internship offers are flourishing 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 at a rate of 125%. It is possible to replace this remuneration by a holiday of the same duration, under certain conditions.

In addition, executives and high managerial positions are expected to work longer hours than other employees. The remuneration of 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 replace holiday pay with the employee's monthly salary or replace the vacation days with a financial allowance.

Business travel

Many employees are required to travel within Switzerland or even abroad in the course of their duties. The question of compensation, especially during travel, business meals or weekends spent on site, is delicate.


When the employee is released from his or her obligation to work, the employer remains obliged to pay his or her salary during the notice period. The employer may, under certain conditions, deduct the employee's salary from a new employer during the notice period.


When the employer is in an economic crisis, he may wish to reduce the employee's salary. It is imperative that the employer follow the rules applicable to a modification-leave. When these changes involve a large number of employees, the employer must also follow the procedure for mass redundancy.

In the context of the strong franc crisis, some companies have decided to reduce the wages of cross-border workers only 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 employees. This registration can be simplified especially when the employee's remuneration exceeds a certain threshold. 

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1 Mar, 2010 byMarianne Favre Moreillon