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Switzerland - Social Security and Welfare
For employees, deductions are made each month from your salary for accident and occupational disease insurance (variable rate), old age and survivors pension (4.2% of salary), invalidity insurance (0.7% of salary), income compensation for maternity or during national service (0.25% of salary), the compulsory occupational pension, and unemployment insurance (1.1% of salary where under CHF 10,500 per month, lower rate applies for additional income above that limit). With the exception of accident insurance, these contributions are matched by the employer. The employer will either match or exceed the contribution made by the employee to the occupational pension, with a minimum of 3.5%. The employer has responsibility for contributing to family allowances. Administration of these schemes will be taken care of by the employer. You will be issued with insurance cards and certificates which you then take to a new employer when changing jobs.
Sickness, Accident and Maternity
If you need to claim sickness, accident or maternity pay while in employment, your company's human resources department should be the first point of contact. Please refer to the Employment Terms and Conditions section for the rules and rates applicable to these situations. You will be covered by accident insurance from your first day at work. If you are not in employment your accident insurance is added to your health insurance, with a corresponding increase in premium, and your health care company will administer this. They will include accidents in the excess (Franchise) and 10% deductible payable on health insurance claims.
You will have arranged private health insurance as a condition of residence in Switzerland (further details on this are available in the Insurance and Health Service sections) and will deal with your insurance company directly. The rules governing your health insurance plan will be detailed in their policy documentation. If you are unemployed or on a low income and struggling to meet health insurance costs you will need to apply for financial assistance with the compensation office of the social insurance institution for your canton (G: Ausgleichskasse AHV, F: Caisse de compensation AVS, I: Casse di compensazione AVS). They will assess your income and, if eligible, will pay you a subsidy to reduce your health insurance premium.
You will be eligible for unemployment payments provided you are resident and have been in employment in Switzerland for a minimum of 12 months during the 2 years previous to the claim. If you are from an EU/EFTA member state you will be able to count employment in your home country during the last 24 months, but this may mean you receive your unemployment benefit from your home country rather than from Switzerland. Proof of social insurance contributions made elsewhere in the EU/EFTA will need to be submitted by obtaining a U1 certificate, which you can obtain from the relevant social security agency in your home country.
Unemployment benefits are paid according to how long the claimant has been contributing to social insurances. You will receive 34 weeks of benefit if you have made contributions for 6 months up to a year, 50 weeks for contributions between and year and 18 months, and 80 weeks for anything over that. A shorter duration applies to young people under 25 without children. The benefit will be 70% of your gross employed income to a maximum of CHF 8,100 per month. If you have children you will receive an additional 10%. Payments are not made during the first week of unemployment. Entitlement depends on your being out of work through no fault of your own and actively seeking work in conjunction with your regional employment centre, who administer unemployment benefits. You must register with them as soon as you become unemployed. Regional employment centres are known by the abbreviation RAV. Note that if unemployed on a renewable work-based permit, you may be able to apply for your permit to be extended while you continue to seek work in Switzerland.
See the Retirement section for full details. In short, you must be resident in Switzerland and to have contributed to the social insurance for at least a year to become eligible for state old age pension payments on reaching retirement age. A survivors' pension becomes payable on death. Widows without children would need to be 45 years or older and married for at least 5 years to be eligible. This condition does not apply to a surviving spouse with children, although a widower remains entitled to his pension only until his youngest child from the marriage reaches 18. The widow or widower's pension ceases to be payable if the surviving spouse remarries. An orphan can receive an orphan's pension until the age of 18, or 25 if in full-time studies.
Disability benefits are paid if you are considered to be disabled by 40% or greater. There will be a waiting period of a year before the pension becomes payable if the claimant remains at least 40% disabled. If assessed as being between 40% and 49% disabled, a quarter of the full pension will be paid. Between 50% and 59% disabled entitles the claimant to a half pension, and 60% to 69% to a three-quarters pension. A full pension is only payable if the disability is considered to be 70% or greater. A foreign national would need to have been contributed to social insurance for at least three years to be eligible and must be resident in Switzerland. A disabled person is entitled to seek work if able to do so. In recalculating benefit, account will be taken of any reduction in earning power resulting from the disability.
Entitlement to Social Benefits on Leaving Switzerland
The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons legislation ensures equal treatment of EU, EFTA and Swiss nationals. It protects the rights of these persons to the social insurances detailed above, although does not include additional social assistance. Only those who have contributed to social insurance through gainful employment and their dependants are covered. If you leave Switzerland permanently you become subject to social security system of your home country, or to the new EU/EFTA country if this was not your country of nationality. You will not be able to transfer accrued contributions, nor receive repayment, but will be entitled to claim on them if and when required. When you retire, you will receive a partial (or full) pension from Switzerland, provided you made social insurance contributions while in Switzerland for at least a year. You may receive the Swiss pension in conjunction with a pension from another EU/EFTA member state. Similar rules apply to the survivors' pension for widows/widowers and orphans. A disability pension will normally paid if you were paying insurance contributions for three years or greater in Switzerland, and otherwise are considered eligible. For any benefit, you must first make a claim via the social security office in the country in which you now reside. Occupational pension benefits should be claimed from the insurer. For detailed information and a full list of contact details, please see the online leaflet 'Leaving and moving to Switzerland in EU or EFTA member state' published by the Federal Social Insurance Office.
If you are a non EU/EFTA national who is leaving Switzerland, you first need to confirm with the compensation office that your old age, survivors and invalidity contributions, known collectively OASI/DI (G: AHV/IV, F: AVS/AI), are correct. Whether you can claim these in your home country will depend on whether there is a bi-lateral social security arrangement in place. The countries that do have this agreement currently include Australia, Canada, USA, Chile, Israel, Turkey, and the Philippines. Whether you will receive pensions and benefits or a lump sum depends on length of cover, and disabilities have to be recognised by Swiss law for the disability payments to be made. Each individual must apply for his or her own pension at the time that he or she becomes eligible. The pension arrangement will be put in place by your own country's social security office, if resident there. If in another country, contact the Swiss Compensation Office or DI Office for Insured Persons Residing Abroad, as appropriate.
Those not covered by a bi-lateral agreement should claim for a reimbursement of the OASI portion of payments you and your employer have made, provided you and any dependants you have in Switzerland are leaving permanently. Certain conditions apply, check with your cantonal compensation office (or the Swiss Compensation Office, details below). You have a choice with the occupational pension of whether to claim a termination benefit or leave the cover in place to receive the pension on retirement (or disability). If you opt to maintain your cover, your dependants also remain entitled to any survivors' pension payable under the scheme.
Federal Social Insurance Office: Overview of Swiss Social Security
(PDF document in English giving a detailed overview of social security deductions and claims)
Leaving and moving to Switzerland in EU or EFTA member state
(PDF document in English providing information for EU/EFTA nationals)
Swiss social insurance system: Sojourn in Switzerland and departure
(PDF document in English providing information for non-EU/EFTA nationals)
Swiss Compensation Office SCO
For queries and claims relating to old age pension and survivors’ benefits
Compensation Centre CdC, Swiss Compensation Office SCO: Voluntary Insurance, Benefits, Avenue Edmond-Vaucher 18, P.O. Box 3100, CH 1211 Geneva 2
Tel: +41 (0)22 795 91 11
DI Office for Insured Persons Residing Abroad
For queries and claims relating to disability insurance
Compensation Centre CdC, DI Office for insured persons residing abroad, Avenue Edmond-Vaucher 18, P.O. Box 3100, CH 1211 Geneva 2
Tel: +41 (0)22 795 91 11
Administrators of unemployment benefit
Email: Use contact form
Addresses of individual RAV centres:
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