Employer's Guide: 5 Key Considerations for Cancellation

You need to terminate an employee? To ensure that termination by you as an employer is legally sound, there are several important substantive points and deadlines to consider. We will familiarize you with the legal requirements.

General Legal Situation

Contrary to other European countries, in Switzerland, the employer has the advantage that there is generally freedom to terminate employment. This means that there is no need for significant reasons to terminate an employee. However, there are exceptions.

Additionally, you must make important preparations to be legally protected. These can roughly be divided into the five categories described below.

1. Notice Periods

Ordinary Termination

In principle, termination in Switzerland can be issued by both parties at any time. Of course, it is essential to adhere to the agreed notice periods. These are determined within the standard or collective labor agreements. They may deviate from the legal notice periods stipulated in the Swiss Code of Obligations (CO). In practice, most Swiss employers grant a fair notice period, which is longer than the legally prescribed one. A duration of three months is common. If you consider a notice period of less than one month appropriate, this is only possible in the first year of employment and through the provisions of a collective labor agreement.

Especially if there is no written employment contract, the statutory minimum notice periods apply. These are:

  • Probationary period: 7 calendar days
  • 1st year of service: 1 month
  • 2nd-9th year of service: 2 months
  • From the 10th year of service: 3 months

The deadlines expire at the end of each month. Note that the same notice period applies to the employee. According to Article 335a CO, it must always be the same for both parties.


Fixed-Term Contracts

An early termination before the originally agreed end date is only possible with fixed-term contracts if you have a significant reason for termination. Otherwise, employment ends on the contractually agreed date. If you continue to employ the worker tacitly thereafter, the statutory notice periods apply.


Immediate/Termination Without Notice

An immediate termination is possible – in this case, the employment relationship ends immediately. However, there must be significant reasons that make continued employment unreasonable. Usually, you must have issued a warning beforehand. Reasons can include offenses, refusal to work, or dishonest behavior towards business partners. But beware: If the reasons are not serious enough, you as the employer may potentially be sued for compensation of up to 6 months' salary.


Mass Layoffs

In this case, employment contracts end 30 days after termination if no notice periods have been agreed upon in the employment contract. Mass layoffs must be reported to the cantonal labor office. However, corresponding terminations are already valid even if this step has not yet been taken. In the case of mass layoffs, you must also consider other aspects. For example, a mass termination may be recognized as abusive if the employer representation was not informed beforehand. You can refer to the legal regulations on mass layoffs here or in Articles 334d et seq. CO.

    2. Form and Timing of Termination

    Termination can be oral in Switzerland, although written communication is preferable. It is only legal when the recipient actually receives it and acknowledges receipt. Usually, there is one working day between the postal dispatch and receipt of a registered letter. However, consider possible delays in case of postal strikes or if the recipient is not at home. Consequently, they may only collect the registered letter from the post office days later – and the termination will only be effective then. Employment relationships can still only be terminated at the end of a month. For example: If termination is received on September 10th and the notice period is three months, the employee is officially employed until December 31st.


    Important: Obtain a Receipt of Delivery

    A written acknowledgment of receipt is important. If delivering the letter in person, involve witnesses. Additionally, you should obtain confirmation of receipt of the termination in the form of the employee's signature.

      3. Contents of the Termination Letter

      A termination letter must include the following basic points:

      • Name and address of the employer and employee
      • Specification of the employment contract, including its date of creation, to which the termination refers
      • Indication of the termination date of the employment relationship
      • Date, place, signature

      According to Swiss law, specifying a reason for termination is optional, except for fixed-term contracts. However, the employee can explicitly demand the reason for termination.

        4. Termination Protection and Blocking Periods

        Under certain conditions, employees are protected from termination. Termination is temporarily or generally invalid in these cases.


        Termination during Inopportune Times (Article 336c et seq. CO)

        The term "inopportune times" is used in professional jargon to refer to a period during which employees are not or only with difficulty terminable. Terminations issued during this period are valid but only take effect after the period ends. During this time, the termination is considered ineffective. Nevertheless, the employee can terminate at any time. Essentially, these situations include:

        • Pregnancy
        • Illness or accident
        • Military service, civilian service, civil protection

        We will elaborate on these points in the following sections.

        • Pregnancy: In the case of pregnancy, the employee cannot be terminated from day 1 of the pregnancy until 16 weeks after childbirth. This protection also applies if the employee is already pregnant at the time of termination but is unaware of the pregnancy.
        • Illness or Accident: In case of an involuntary accident or illness of the employee, the employee is legally protected from termination. According to the CO, the length of protection depends on the length of service:
          • 1st year of service: 30 days
          • 2nd-5th year of service: 90 days
          • From the 6th year of service: 180 days
        • Military Service, Civilian Service, Civil Protection: During any of these activities, the employee is fully protected. This also applies to relief efforts abroad.

          5. Abusive Termination

          Within the Swiss legal system, there is a list of termination reasons that declare termination as abusive. For example, this could be a termination based on a personal characteristic of the employee, such as membership in a labor union, or if, for example, a mass termination is issued without informing the employee representation beforehand. The list is considerably longer and is regularly updated. The peculiarity of an abusive termination is that the termination is still valid. However, employees can claim damages from the employer.


          While the basics of termination are quickly explained, the law behind it is much more complex. Therefore, it's best to play it safe. Protect yourself and your company from unwanted financial difficulties and get a lawyer on your side for terminations. GetYourLawyer assists you in finding a specialist lawyer for labor law. Submit your request online and find legal representation that suits you and your individual case.

          With GetYourLawyer, you're choosing quality.

          Receive offers with fixed prices or those with transparent cost ceilings. This way, you maintain cost control at all times. Thanks to our efficiency in legal packages, you can also save up to 30% on average.

          Teaser Icon
          Flat Fee for Companies
          Legal Service by Subscription From CHF 139 / Month
          Teaser Icon
          Legal Initial Consultation
          Contracts CHF 65.-
          Teaser Icon
          Contract Review
          Contracts CHF 590.-