Whether it's Easter, National Day, cantonal events, Christmas, or New Year's Eve, there’s always a public holiday around the corner. While most of us enjoy these days off, for many businesses, this period is associated with a lot of work. Public holidays raise various legal questions, which we will explain in this blog.

what are public holidays?

In Switzerland, a distinction is made between public holidays that are equivalent to Sundays and those that are not.

public holidays equivalent to sundays

Holidays recognized by federal law are equivalent to Sundays. Federally, only August 1st is designated as a national holiday in the Federal Constitution. However, according to Article 20a of the Labor Law, the cantons can designate up to eight of their public holidays as equivalent to Sundays in addition to this national holiday. On these days, work is prohibited as on a Sunday. If work is still required, a corresponding permit is needed.

public holidays not equivalent to sundays

Cantons or municipalities can designate additional public holidays beyond these eight. These are not equivalent to Sundays. If these holidays fall on weekdays, they are considered normal working days, although work may be prohibited due to cantonal or municipal regulations. You can find out which holidays are equivalent to Sundays from the labor office of the respective canton.

This distinction in holidays plays a significant role in the requirements of the permit process. You can learn more about the permit process for working on public holidays from SECO.

can my boss require me to work on public holidays?

Not generally. Work on public holidays that are equivalent to Sundays requires a governmental permit. This permit is only granted if there is an urgent need. If the employer has obtained such a permit, they can require employees to work on public holidays.

does my company have to provide substitute rest days if holidays fall on rest days?

If the holiday falls on a weekday, the employee does not have to work. If it falls on one of the usual rest days (Saturday or Sunday), employees are not entitled to a substitute rest day. The same applies if a holiday falls during a period of unexcused absence (e.g., illness, accident, military service, etc.). If holidays fall during vacation time, they cannot be counted as vacation days.

am i entitled to pay on public holidays?

Unless otherwise agreed, monthly or weekly wage earners receive their usual pay without deductions for public holidays, as they do for regular days off. Hourly, daily, or piece-rate workers, however, are not entitled to pay, except on August 1st.

how should public holidays be handled for part-time employees?

Part-time work is a special case. If the holiday falls on a regular rest or off day for part-time employees, they are not entitled to compensation or pay. However, if employees are scheduled to work at different times or days by the employer, they should receive proportional pay for missed work on holidays in line with equal treatment. In practice, a surcharge of two to three percent of the relevant wage has been established for hourly workers to compensate for missed work on holidays.

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