Update: 19.08.2011

Labour rights

On this page you will find legal guarantees and other regulations from the Swiss Federal Constitution, the European and international human rights treaties and further documents under international law. This list is not intended to be exhaustive, as regulations from other regional treaties and topically similar safeguarding provisions of international humanitarian law are not included.

Federal Constitution on the Swiss Confederation of 18 April 1999

Article 8 (Equality before the law): [...] (3) Men and women shall have equal rights. The law shall ensure their equality, both in law and in practice, most particularly in the family, in education, and in the workplace. Men and women shall have the right to equal pay for work of equal value. [...]

Article 27 (Freedom of commerce): (1) Freedom of commerce is guaranteed.
(2) Freedom of commerce includes in particular the freedom to choose an occupation as well as the freedom to pursue a private economic activity.

The social rights of the Swiss Federal Constitution are - apart from the right to assistance when in distress, the right to primary school education and the freedom of commerce - not binding and justiciable. Most of the social rights enshrined in international covenants are mere pronouncements of social goals. With regard to the right to work, article 41 states:

Article 41: (1) The Confederation and the Cantons shall, as a complement to personal responsibility and private initiative, endeavour to ensure that: […]
(d) everyone who is fit to work can earn their living by working under fair conditions; [...]
(4) No direct right to state benefits may be established on the basis of these social objectives.

(English is not an official language of the Swiss Confederation. This translation is provided for information purposes only and has no legal force.)

European Social Charter

The European Social Charter covers the following issues with regards to employment, however Switzerland has not ratified this Charter:

  • prohibition of forced labour;
  • prohibition of the employment of children underthe age of 15;
  • special working conditions between 15 and 18 years of age;
  • the right to earn one’s living in an occupation freely entered upon;
  • an economic and social policy designed to ensure full employment;
  • fair working conditions as regards pay and working hours;
  • protection from sexual and psychological harassment;
  • freedom to form trade unions and employers’ organisationsto defend economic and social interests; individual freedom to decidewhether or not to join them;
  • promotion of joint consultation, collective bargaining, conciliationand voluntary arbitration;
  • protection in case of dismissal;
  • the right to strike;
  • access to work for persons with disabilities.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 23: (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (PART III)

Article 6: (1) The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right.
(2) The steps to be taken by a State Party to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include technical and vocational guidance and training programmes, policies and techniques to achieve steady economic, social and cultural development and full and productive employment under conditions safeguarding fundamental political and economic freedoms to the individual.

Article 7: The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work which ensure, in particular (a) Remuneration which provides all workers, as a minimum, with:
(a.i)Fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind, in particular women being guaranteed conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men, with equal pay for equal work;
(a.ii) A decent living for themselves and their families in accordance with the provisions of the present Covenant;
(b)Safe and healthy working conditions;
(c) Equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted in his employment to an appropriate higher level, subject to no considerations other than those of seniority and competence;
(d) Rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Article 5: In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights: [...]
(e) Economic, social and cultural rights, in particular:
(e.i) The rights to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, to just and favourable remuneration;
(e.ii) The right to form and join trade unions;

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women New York, 18 December 1979

Article 11: (1) States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights, in particular:
(1.a) The right to work as an inalienable right of all human beings;
(1.b)The right to the same employment opportunities, including the application of the same criteria for selection in matters of employment;
(1.c) The right to free choice of profession and employment, the right to promotion, job security and all benefits and conditions of service and the right to receive vocational training and retraining, including apprenticeships, advanced vocational training and recurrent training;
(1.d) The right to equal remuneration, including benefits, and to equal treatment in respect of work of equal value, as well as equality of treatment in the evaluation of the quality of work;
(1.e) The right to social security, particularly in cases of retirement, unemployment, sickness, invalidity and old age and other incapacity to work, as well as the right to paid leave;
(1.f) The right to protection of health and to safety in working conditions, including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction.
(2) In order to prevent discrimination against women on the grounds of marriage or maternity and to ensure their effective right to work, States Parties shall take appropriate measures:
(2.a) To prohibit, subject to the imposition of sanctions, dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy or of maternity leave and discrimination in dismissals on the basis of marital status;
(2.b) To introduce maternity leave with pay or with comparable social benefits without loss of former employment, seniority or social allowances;
(2.c) To encourage the provision of the necessary supporting social services to enable parents to combine family obligations with work responsibilities and participation in public life, in particular through promoting the establishment and development of a network of child-care facilities;
(2.d) To provide special protection to women during pregnancy in types of work proved to be harmful to them.
(3) Protective legislation relating to matters covered in this article shall be reviewed periodically in the light of scientific and technological knowledge and shall be revised, repealed or extended as necessary.

International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families

The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families entered into force in July 2003. Its primary objective is to protect migrant workers and their families, a particularly vulnerable population, from exploitation and the violation of their human rights. However Switzerland has not ratified this Convention.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Article 27 (Work and employment): (1) States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities. States Parties shall safeguard and promote the realization of the right to work, including for those who acquire a disability during the course of employment, by taking appropriate steps, including through legislation, to, inter alia:
(1.a) Prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability with regard to all matters concerning all forms of employment, including conditions of recruitment, hiring and employment, continuance of employment, career advancement and safe and healthy working conditions;
(1.b) Protect the rights of persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, to just and favourable conditions of work, including equal opportunities and equal remuneration for work of equal value, safe and healthy working conditions, including protection from harassment, and the redress of grievances;
(1.c) Ensure that persons with disabilities are able to exercise their labour and trade union rights on an equal basis with others;
(1.d) Enable persons with disabilities to have effective access to general technical and vocational guidance programmes, placement services and vocational and continuing training;
(1.e) Promote employment opportunities and career advancement for persons with disabilities in the labour market, as well as assistance in finding, obtaining, maintaining and returning to employment;
(1.f) Promote opportunities for self-employment, entrepreneurship, the development of cooperatives and starting one's own business;
(1.g) Employ persons with disabilities in the public sector;
(1.h) Promote the employment of persons with disabilities in the private sector through appropriate policies and measures, which may include affirmative action programmes, incentives and other measures;
(1.i) Ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided to persons with disabilities in the workplace;
(1.j) Promote the acquisition by persons with disabilities of work experience in the open labour market;
(1.k) Promote vocational and professional rehabilitation, job retention and return-to-work programmes for persons with disabilities.
(2) States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities are not held in slavery or in servitude, and are protected, on an equal basis with others, from forced or compulsory labour.

International Labour Organization

To find out which ILO Conventions Switzerland has ratified please click on the following link: ILO

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