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Inability to work due to illness / pregnancy – rights and obligations

What are the rights and obligations that apply to employees?

Notifying your employer

If you are ill or unable to work due to pregnancy, notify your employer. You generally need to submit a medical certificate as of the third day you are off work (depending on the provisions of your employment contract). If you are partially unable to work, the medical certificate needs to indicate how many hours you may work.

If you fall ill while you are on holiday, you should notify your employer. You do not have to deduct days on which you were ill from your holiday entitlement provided you can prove it with a medical certificate.

Continued pay during illness

Employers are required to continue paying employees their full wages for a certain period during illness. According to the Code of Obligations (CO), the minimum duration is three weeks during the first year of service and thereafter wages for appropriately longer periods depending on the duration of the employment relationship and the particular circumstances. Court decisions are based on the Bern, Basel and Zurich scales. Other agreements can be reached, but they must be laid down in writing for the employee in particular (e.g. in his/her employment contract) or in the standard employment contract or collective employment agreement.

Insurance for daily allowance during illness

Many employers take out an insurance for daily allowance during illness to be able to pay their employees 80% during prolonged absences due to illness. Employers pay for at least half of the amount of the premiums. Wage continuation applies for the duration of the employee’s inability to work, but no longer than 720 days within 900 consecutive days.

Check your employment regulations to see which rules apply in your company.

Continued pay during sick leave according to the Bern, Basel and Zurich scales

Termination of employment while unable to work

Employees who fall sick during their trial period are not protected from having their employment terminated. Employers may not terminate the employment of employees off work due to illness or pregnancy.

Self-employed persons

Self-employed persons should take out a paid sick leave insurance to cover the loss of income in the event of illness. It is also recommended to take out a disability pension to receive a pension after the paid sick leave insurance benefits expire (after 2 years).
You may want to consult online services that compare the benefits offered by insurance providers before making a decision.

Disability pension

If you are unfit for work for longer than 30 days, you can apply to the invalidity insurance office in your canton of residence for early registration. The invalidity insurance office can then look into whether you are at risk of invalidity and whether that risk can be averted by taking suitable measures as quickly as possible. These measures may include adapting your workplace, taking courses, finding a different job or getting advice on a change of career.

You should register with the invalidity insurance office at the latest when you have been unfit for work for six months, because you have to wait at least six months after you have registered before you are entitled to an invalidity pension. You will start to receive a pension one year after you become unfit for work, provided your income is permanently over 40% less than what you previously earned.

The invalidity insurance office will only grant you a pension if you are no longer able to do any work even if suitable measures are taken.