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Employment contract: You should note these 10 things

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If you start a new job, or are starting your first job after university or your apprenticeship, you will be confronted with a lot of new things. Your employment contract is only one part of that – but a very important one! We explain what young and even experienced professionals need to bear in mind before they sign the contract for their new job.

1. How and when do I receive the employment contract?

The employment contract is usually the last step in the application process. After the interviews and meetings, the future employer will usually call you with the good news: “You got the job!” Terms such as salary, vacation, working hours, and other employment conditions are usually discussed beforehand during the last interview – or at the latest when you are accepted for the job. Then the employment contract is sent by email or post. You can take your time to read the terms and check if all the points are defined as discussed. If you have questions, it’s best to contact your future line manager or HR department straightaway – before signing something you don’t understand or something you don’t agree with. Once you sign the contract, you send one copy to the employer and keep one copy for your records. That way you always have a copy if you need to look something up later. You should definitely make sure that concessions that are not included in writing in the contract are additionally set out in writing – either as a part of the contract or as an addendum. 

2. Is a written employment contract needed for every job?

A written employment contract is not required by law. Oral agreements are also deemed to be valid agreements (Art. 11 CO). However, for an employment relationship it makes sense to draw up a contract in writing that includes all the major points. This helps to prevent misunderstandings. It is also important should you have a dispute with your employer. If this happens, the person who is making the claim has the burden of proof that a claim actually exists. In this case, the employment contract is an important piece of evidence.

3. What should the employment contract govern?

A written employment contract should include information such as:

  • The names of the contractual parties
  • The date on which the employment relationship starts
  • The function of the employee
  • Salary and salary supplements
  • Working hours
  • Vacation regulations
  • Special agreements regarding overtime or non-compete clauses

Oftentimes, the employment contract is supplemented with staff or company policies. These usually include regulations that apply to all employees of the company, for example the number of hours employees must work, vacation allowances, or expense rules. These regulations are also deemed to be a part of the contract. If certain points are not explicitly governed in the employment contract, then it is a good idea to have a look through the associated policies. 

4. What is a probation period?

The probation period is a time period in which new employees and employers get to know each other and find out whether they are a good fit. This works both ways – employees get a better understanding of their tasks and team. And the employer can better assess whether the new addition to the team fits in with the company and is up to the job. Shorter notice periods apply during the probation period: Both employees and employers can terminate the employment relationship faster than after the probation period has ended. Usually, the employment contract stipulates how long the probation period lasts for and what termination periods apply during this time. If nothing is set out in the contract, then the term of the statutory probation period for permanent employment contracts is one month. Employers often define other probation periods in contracts – up to three months. For fixed-term employment contracts, the law does not stipulate a probation period. But here too, the employer can set out a probation period in the contract. 

5. Does the employment contract have to include a notice period?

A notice period is usually specified in the employment contract. If the employment contract or collective employment agreement (CEA) does not include a notice period, then the following applies: 

  • 7 calendar days during the probation period
  • 1 month during the first year of employment, in each case to the end of a month
  • 2 months from the second to ninth year of employment, in each case to the end of a month
  • 3 months from the tenth year of employment, in each case to the end of a month

“To the end of a month” means that the termination must always be submitted with effect on the last day of a month. For example, if you give notice on June 10 with a one-month notice period, the employment relationship does not end on July 10, but on July 31 – i.e. with effect from the end of the month. 

6. Is it better to have a short or long notice period?

It is impossible to say in general terms. If you want to change jobs quickly, it is better to have a short notice period. However, this means the employer can terminate your employment relationship within a short period of time – which means you may quickly find yourself with no source of income. A long notice period, on the other hand, offers (financial) security and more time to find a new job after the current one has been terminated. In this case, however, employees sacrifice flexibility if they want to change jobs quickly. We explain what you should do if your employer terminates your employment contract in our blog “Have you received notice of termination? Tips for reporting to the REO”.

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7. Should vacation also be governed in the employment contract?

Thinking about vacation before your first day on the job is not the best idea, right? It’s up to you whether you want to ask for time off for your next vacation during the first week of work. However, it’s important that vacation is also defined in the employment contract. In Switzerland, employees are entitled to at least four weeks of vacation per year. Employees under that age of 20 get at least five weeks. And if you have actually booked vacation or have fixed plans for vacation before you start your job, you should notify your line manager as early as possible – ideally during the interview. Transparency and honesty are ultimately just as important for employees as they are for employers.

8. I want to work from home. Should that be in the employment contract?

Flexible working – whether in the office, from home, or abroad – is becoming more and more important for many employees. But it is equally important that the contract clearly governs where the work has to be performed. If this is not set out in the employment contract, then the place of work should be defined in the staff regulations. Several places can also be listed – depending on how much flexibility the employer offers. In general, you are not entitled to work from home. However, if you rely on the option to work from home (for example, for health reasons), then you should show the reasons for this and reach a separate agreement – in writing – in this regard. More on the rights and obligations for working from home can be found in our blog “Working from home: What are your rights and obligations?” . 

9. What do I need to know about social insurance?

Social insurance benefits are usually not the most exciting aspect of starting a new job. Nevertheless, it’s still a good idea to read the terms in detail. After all, there are companies that offer more than the minimum of social benefits. For example, if an employer increases daily sickness benefits from 80% to 100% of your insured salary. Then in the case of illness, you would receive your full salary. Or if the company takes out private accident insurance for all its employees. 

10. What can I do if I don’t agree with the terms of the employment contract?

Like with every other type of contract, employment contracts can also be negotiated. If you receive an employment contract and have questions, you should contact your future employer right away to clarify them. Promises were made during the interview that you can’t find in the contract? Then you should definitely talk with your future line manager or the HR department. Once you have signed the employment contract, it becomes much more difficult to negotiate the terms than before it was signed.

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