Sick Leave in Switzerland: All You Need To Know

Switzerland has one of the best sick leave policies in the world, making it one of the best places to work and live. If you’re considering moving to this beautiful European country, it’s in your best interest to find out everything you can about the country’s sick leave policies.

Every employee in Switzerland is entitled to paid sick leave. How many paid sick days you get depends on how long you’ve been employed in a company. Employees get 3 weeks of sick leave in the first year of employment. If they are unwell for longer, the insurance starts paying out sick benefits for up to 720 days.

This article highlights everything you need to know about sick leave in Switzerland. Whether you want to find out what benefits you’re entitled to, how many days of sick leave you’re eligible for or how to get sick leave in Switzerland, you’ve come to the right place.

Does Switzerland have paid sick leave?

Every employee in Switzerland is entitled to sick leave as long as they can prove they need it. Better yet, a majority of Swiss employees get paid their full salary while on sick leave (Lohnfortzahlung).

However, the number of days you get as sick leave differs depending on how long you’ve been employed.

For instance, the average sick leave for first-year employees is only three weeks. Employees in their second, third, fourth, and fifth years of service are entitled to approximately eight, nine, ten, and eleven weeks of leave, respectively.

The table below shows how many weeks of sick days employees with different years of experience are entitled to:

Length of the employment Basel scale BS, BLBern scale BE, AG, OW, SG, West CHZurich Scale ZH, GR
1st year3 weeks3 weeks3 weeks
2nd year2 months1 month8 weeks
3rd year2 months2 months9 weeks
4th year3 months2 months10 weeks
5th year3 months3 months11 weeks
6th year3 months3 months12 weeks
7th year3 months3 months13 weeks
8th year3 months3 months14 weeks
9th year3 months3 months15 weeks
10th year3 months4 months16 weeks
11th year4 months4 months17 weeks
Source: – Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs

If an employee is sick for a more extended period, they are entitled to sick benefits paid out by the daily sickness benefits insurance (Krankentagegeldversicherung). However, the insurance has a waiting period of at least 14 days, during which you fully or partially will be compensated by the employer.

The waiting period can be 14, 30, 90, or even 180 days. Swiss employers are obligated to continue paying you a salary during that time, assuming you have worked in the company for over 3 months.

Moreover, the period an employee receives wages and how much they receive while on sick leave depends on the distinct circumstances below:

Existence of daily sickness allowance insurance

While the law doesn’t require that an employer provide daily sickness allowance insurance, it’s a common feature in most employment contracts in Switzerland.

Many Swiss employers provide “collective” daily sickness insurance for their employees. This ensures you get paid 80% of your salary for up to 720 days.

The contributions for the daily sickness insurance are often paid by the employee. But they also can be paid entirely by the company or shared between the employer and the worker. In fact, they are automatically deducted directly from your salary.

Besides, it benefits both parties, allowing the employee to receive compensation during the sick leave and saving the employer from paying a sick employee’s salary out of pocket.

When the employment contract has the provision for daily sickness benefits insurance, an employee is covered for up to 720 days. In some instances, there’s also the possibility of getting 100% of their salary instead of 80%.

Absence of daily sickness allowance insurance

Where an employee’s contract doesn’t include daily sickness benefits insurance, the obligation for sick leave compensation lies with the employer.

According to Switzerland’s labor laws, the employer MUST pay the employee their full salary (100%) for a certain period annually if they fall ill.

However, only employees who have been employed full-time for at least three full months are eligible. The law stipulates that the employer must pay 100% of the employee’s salary from day one of their sick leave without fail.

Other factors that help determine how long an employee can be on sick leave and the salary they’re entitled to include the employment contract, GAV (collective labor agreement), or NAV.

It’s important to know that sick days’ salary entitlements are calculated per year of service. Thus, if you’re off sick several times in a year, the number of days you’ve been on sick leave is summed up to determine if you’re within the allowed annual limit of sick days.

Employees on sick leave get their salary along with any other benefits they would get if they were fit and working.

Further, Swiss labor laws protect employees by stipulating that any statutory stipulations precede employment contracts on continued payment of wages, which means an employer can’t deny you a salary on your sick leave because you signed off on it in your agreement.

How much is sick pay in Switzerland?

Generally, you will get 80% of your daily wage during sick leave in Switzerland. The allowance can be up to 100% of your current salary, depending on the employer and whether you have “daily sickness benefits insurance” (Krankentagegeldversicherung) or not.

How does sick leave work in Switzerland?

Taking sick days in Switzerland is as simple as providing proof that you’re unfit to work, but you have to inform your supervisor immediately after you realize you won’t be able to clock in.

This means that you need to visit a doctor and get a sick sheet stipulating that after consultation, observation, or diagnosis, the doctor has deemed you unfit for regular duty.

So, as an employee, the burden of proof lies with you. Typically, labor laws require you to submit a medical certificate upon an employer’s request. However, most employers expect to receive it within 3 to 4 days of incapacity to work.

However, this depends on the clauses in your employment contract. If nothing is specified, check the company regulations. Most employers state that a doctor’s certificate is required from the third or fourth day of illness at the latest. In fact, an employer may ask for it as early as the first day.

Doctor’s notice or medical certificate in Switzerland

A notice from your doctor is mandatory in Switzerland. Without it, your sick leave will be unofficial, which can lead to all sorts of trouble up to the termination of the employment contract.

Moreover, if you’re unfit to work for a prolonged period, you must submit new medical certificates regularly to keep your employer abreast of what’s happening.

Part of what the medical certificate indicates is the extent of your ailment – whether you’re fully or partially incapacitated. While it shouldn’t have the diagnosis in either case, when an employee is unfit to work partially, the certificate should indicate the maximum number of hours they can work safely.

On the other hand, a daily sickness benefits insurance company requires a slightly different medical certificate. Specifically, the standard doctor’s certificate simply won’t cut it for cases of long-term incapacity.

Instead, daily sickness benefits insurers often require a proper medical examination by a qualified medical examiner.

Nevertheless, the examination aims to determine the extent of your sickness and advise the insurer on information about an employee’s ability to work. Therefore, even the insurer, by law, is not allowed to ask for the diagnosis.

What are you allowed to do during sick leave in Switzerland?

If you are on sick leave, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you must stay in bed all the time. Some activities are considered acceptable during the sick days, and some aren’t that much.

For example, getting caught while running in a park during your sick leave will definitely make your employer doubt, whereas taking a walk is totally fine.

Moreover, you can do your daily chores such as shopping at the supermarket, etc. Yet, going out for drinks isn’t recommended.

How long will you get paid during the sick leave in Switzerland?

The amount of paid sick days depends on the length of your employment, thus, how long you have been working in the company. The paid sick leave period is usually limited to 720 days.

In the table above, you can see the exact number of sick days that are paid by your employer before insurance takes effect. They are divided into Basel, Bern, and Zurich scales.

The insurance has a waiting period of at least 14 days, during which you fully or particularly will be compensated by the employer. The waiting period, however, can be 14, 30, 90 or even 180 days.

For sick days over that period, your insurance (Krankentagegeldversicherung) will cover 80% to 100% of your wage for up to 720 days (2 years).

Child sick leave in Switzerland

Perhaps you’re also wondering what happens when a loved one is sick, and you need to take care of them. Do you request sick leave to take care of your child, spouse, or partner if they’re impaired?

Employees in Switzerland are also entitled to sick leave to care for a sick loved one. Under the country’s labor laws, employees qualify for paid sick leave to care for the following family members:

  • Child, spouse or registered partner
  • Parents
  • Siblings and people with whom an employee has lived for a minimum of 5 years without interruption

However, unlike personal sick leave, the number of days you can take to care for dependents is limited as follows:

  • The time necessary to provide care is up to a maximum of 3 days per event
  • A maximum of 10 days per year of service

Nonetheless, employees are given more leeway when they need leave to care for a child with a severe accident or illness-borne health impairment.

In this case, a parent gets up to a maximum of 14 weeks within an 18-month period, with the framework period starting on the first day the employee draws their first sick leave daily allowance.

Even so, in cases where both parents are employed, the law only allows each parent to take up to seven weeks of sick leave for childcare.

The assumption is that by the end of the period if the child still needs close monitoring, you’ll have figured out the modalities of providing appropriate care through a third party.

Burnout sick leave in Switzerland

Can you take a burnout sick leave in Switzerland? In some cases, it’s possible, but only after getting a doctor’s recommendation in writing. It must state that you have a health issue caused by burnout. If you are qualified, you can take paid sick leave.

Burnout sick leave is a highly contentious issue in Switzerland. On the one hand, there’s no denying that more employees in the country are experiencing burnout to varying factors. This, in turn, not only affects their productivity but also worsens their mental health.

In fact, statistics from one of the country’s biggest insurer shows that the number of Swiss employees battling stress-related mental health problems and their contributing factors are increasing. 6 out of 10 employees take sick leave due to burnout or depression.

In mid-2019, the Swiss parliament declined to recognise burnout as an occupational illness. As a result, the debate on whether burned-out employees in the country need sick leave still rages on.

Although burnout doesn’t qualify for sick leave in Switzerland, it can trigger or worsen other occupational illnesses for which sick leave may be granted.

For instance, research shows that burnout can exacerbate specific psychiatric diseases and physical dysfunctions. Specifically, burnout is a risk factor for cardiovascular ailments and perhaps a more common mental disorder, depression.

Employees suffering from burnout can visit a medical practitioner for evaluation. If the doctor determines that their state will impair their ability to work, they can recommend time off work.

With a doctor’s recommendations in writing, an employee may be eligible to take sick off as they recover from the condition triggered by burnout. Alternatively, if an employee feels burned out but is unable to get approval from a medic to take sick leave, they can take vacation days to get off work and unwind.

Technically, vacation days are set by the employer. However, the employer is obligated to consider an employee’s preferences or arrangements upon request. All employees in Switzerland are entitled to four weeks of paid vacation leave after every year of employment.

How to call in sick in Switzerland

It’s easy to call in sick in Switzerland, but you must always ensure you have a valid reason.

The first step of calling in sick is informing your employer of your inability to work. That can be your immediate supervisor or manager, but it’s also prudent that you tell your HR department.

Secondly, you need to visit a doctor so they can ascertain your condition. If they determine you have a reason to take sick off, they’ll write you a medical certificate indicating how long they believe you would need to recover.

The medical certificate is crucial as it’s the only way for your employer and insurer to ensure that your sick leave claim is genuine. You should see a doctor at your earliest convenience as most employers expect to receive it within a maximum of 4 working days after your first day of sick leave.

Finally, you must keep your employer apprised of your condition, especially in instances where you require more sick days off than initially communicated.

Should you require an extension of your sick leave, you’ll need to get another medical certificate from your doctor and send it to your employer.

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