Update: 19.08.2011

Social security

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 of the Swiss Confederation of 18 April 1999

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

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 social security, 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
(a) everyone has access to social security; [...]
(2) The Confederation and Cantons shall endeavour to ensure that everyone is protected against the economic consequences of old-age, invalidity, illness, accident, unemployment, maternity, being orphaned and being widowed.
(3) They shall endeavour to achieve these social objectives within the scope of their constitutional powers and the resources available to them.
(4) No direct right to state benefits may be established on the basis of these social objectives.

European Social Charter (revised)

Article 8  (The right of employed women to protection of maternity): With a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right of employed women to the protection of maternity, the Parties undertake:
(1) to provide either by paid leave, by adequate social security benefits or by benefits from public funds for employed women to take leave before and after childbirth up to a total of at least fourteen weeks;
(2) to consider it as unlawful for an employer to give a woman notice of dismissal during the period from the time she notifies her employer that she is pregnant until the end of her maternity leave, or to give her notice of dismissal at such a time that the notice would expire during such a period; [...]

Article 12
(The right to social security): With a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right to social security, the Parties undertake:
(1) to establish or maintain a system of social security;
(2) to maintain the social security system at a satisfactory level at least equal to that necessary for the ratification of the European Code of Social Security;
(3) to endeavour to raise progressively the system of social security to a higher level;
(4) to take steps, by the conclusion of appropriate bilateral and multilateral agreements or by other means, and subject to the conditions laid down in such agreements, in order to ensure:
(a) equal treatment with their own nationals of the nationals of other Parties in respect of social security rights, including the retention of benefits arising out of social security legislation, whatever movements the persons protected may undertake between the territories of the Parties;
(b) the granting, maintenance and resumption of social security rights by such means as the accumulation of insurance or employment periods completed under the legislation of each of the Parties.
European Convention on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers

Article 18 (Social Security): (1) Each Contracting Party undertakes to grant within its territory, to migrant workers and members of their families, equality of treatment with its own nationals, in the matter of social security, subject to conditions required by national legislation and by bilateral or multilateral agreements already concluded or to be concluded between the Contracting Parties concerned.
(2) The Contracting Parties shall moreover endeavour to secure to migrant workers and members of their families the conservation of rights in course of acquisition and acquired rights, as well as provision of benefits abroad, through bilateral and multilateral agreements.

(This Convention has not been ratified in Switzerland.)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 22: Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Article 9: The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance.

Article 10: The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that: [...]
(2) Special protection should be accorded to mothers during a reasonable period before and after childbirth. During such period working mothers should be accorded paid leave or leave with adequate social security benefits. [...]

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: [...]
(iv) The right to public health, medical care, social security and social services; [...]

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

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.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;
(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; [...]

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Article 26: (1) States Parties shall recognize for every child the right to benefit from social security, including social insurance, and shall take the necessary measures to achieve the full realization of this right in accordance with their national law.
(2) The benefits should, where appropriate, be granted, taking into account the resources and the circumstances of the child and persons having responsibility for the maintenance of the child, as well as any other consideration relevant to an application for benefits made by or on behalf of the child.
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families

Article 27: (1) With respect to social security, migrant workers and members of their families shall enjoy in the State of employment the same treatment granted to nationals in so far as they fulfil the requirements provided for by the applicable legislation of that State and the applicable bilateral and multilateral treaties. The competent authorities of the State of origin and the State of employment can at any time establish the necessary arrangements to determine the modalities of application of this norm.
(2) Where the applicable legislation does not allow migrant workers and members of their families a benefit, the States concerned shall examine the possibility of reimbursing interested persons the amount of contributions made by them with respect to that benefit on the basis of the treatment granted to nationals who are in similar circumstances.

Article 61: [...] (3) Subject to bilateral or multilateral agreements in force for them, the States Parties concerned shall endeavour to enable project-tied workers to remain adequately protected by the social security systems of their States of origin or habitual residence during their engagement in the project. States Parties concerned shall take appropriate measures with the aim of avoiding any denial of rights or duplication of payments in this respect. [...]

(This Convention has not been ratified by Switzerland.)

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Article 28 (Adequate standard of living and social protection): (1) States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions, and shall take appropriate steps to safeguard and promote the realization of this right without discrimination on the basis of disability.
(2) States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to social protection and to the enjoyment of that right without discrimination on the basis of disability, and shall take appropriate steps to safeguard and promote the realization of this right, including measures:
(a) To ensure equal access by persons with disabilities to clean water services, and to ensure access to appropriate and affordable services, devices and other assistance for disability-related needs;
(b) To ensure access by persons with disabilities, in particular women and girls with disabilities and older persons with disabilities, to social protection programmes and poverty reduction programmes;
(c) To ensure access by persons with disabilities and their families living in situations of poverty to assistance from the State with disability-related expenses, including adequate training, counselling, financial assistance and respite care;
(d) To ensure access by persons with disabilities to public housing programmes;
(e) To ensure equal access by persons with disabilities to retirement benefits and programmes.

ILO Conventions

The working force is protected by international conventions concluded in the framework of the International Labour Organization. Numerous Conventions are concerned with social security. Please consult our topical page for further information.


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