Working in Zurich?
Working Conditions in Zurich
You Get What You Work For
Most employees in Zurich enjoy fairly good working conditions. There is no national minimum wage in Switzerland, although the pay in some fields of employment is regulated by collective agreements (Gesamtarbeitsvertrag or GAV). Nonetheless, the majority of the working population has a higher salary than in other European countries.
In 2014, the average gross salary across Switzerland was 6,160 CHF per month. In Zurich’s finance industry, salaries will probably be higher. However, the high salaries are due to the high cost of living, and Zurich is one of the most expensive regions in the entire country. If your salary is negotiable, you should take this into account. If you want to know what Swiss people in similar jobs make, have a look at this salary calculator maintained by the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (available only in French, German, and Italian).
From your gross salary, about 10% are directly deducted to pay for social security contributions. You will be taxed on the remaining income. While your actual tax rate will be different, you can assume as a rule of thumb that at least 10% of your salary will go to the Swiss tax office. The remaining sum is your monthly household budget for living expenses, such as health insurance, medical costs, rent, transport, food, etc.
Working Hours and Annual Leave
The legal maximum of working hours per week varies slightly according to field of employment. For most employees, though, it is 45 hours. In 2014, people working in Switzerland put in an average of 41.7 hours of work every week, so contracts with 42 or 42.5 hours per week are common.
As far as paid leave is concerned, you are entitled to take 20 days off every year. The Swiss do live up to their reputation as an extremely industrious people. In 2012, Switzerland’s trade unions organized a referendum to raise the minimum annual leave to six weeks — the proposal failed spectacularly. So, when you start working in Zurich, your contract is likely to stipulate four weeks of paid leave per year.
In fields of employment that are covered by a collective agreement (GAV), older employees or those who have been with the same company for a very long time often get five days more. In addition to your regular leave, you can take all national and regional holidays off, provided that they don’t coincide with the weekend anyway. In the canton of Zurich, these are up to nine more paid holidays per year.
Unemployed: What Now?
If you should be laid off during your time as an expat in Zurich, you may be entitled to unemployment benefits. Everyone who has paid social insurance contributions for at least twelve months within the last two years receives financial benefits under certain conditions. Among other things, you must not have given notice yourself without due reason, and you must prove that you are actively looking for work.
If you fulfill the legal requirements, you will get 70-80% of your income for at least eight months. The exact sum, as well as the duration, of those benefits depends on various factors, e.g. your family situation and the length of your previous employment. In case that you should become unemployed after relocating to Zurich, please get in touch with the local RAV (regionales Arbeitsvermittlungszentrum — regional job center) as soon as possible.
Does unemployment mean that you’ll lose your work and residence permit? Not necessarily so. If your residence permit is due for renewal while you are between jobs, this may become a problem. In this situation, you have no legal right to a renewed permit.
However, as long as you meet the legal requirements for unemployment benefits or have proof of sufficient financial resources, your permit will probably be renewed for another year. Make sure to contact the Zurich Migration Office well in advance and discuss your case to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
For more information on unemployment benefits in Switzerland, please refer to our respective in-depth article.
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