The best financial services for your money!

Download this e-book and optimize your finances and save money by using the best financial services available in Switzerland!

Download The FREE e-book

Unemployment in Switzerland in 2024

Baptiste Wicht | Updated: |

(Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links)

While I do not wish unemployment on anybody, I think knowing how unemployment works in Switzerland is essential.

If you know how it works, you also know how you are protected. And you can be prepared if you were to become unemployed.

So, in this article, we cover everything there is to know about unemployment.

Unemployment insurance in Switzerland

Unemployment Insurance (UI) is part of the basic social security in Switzerland. This insurance will help people who lose their jobs. This social insurance helps when you are in between jobs.

While it sounds simple on paper, there are many small yet essential points about unemployment in Switzerland. Therefore, I think it is crucial to cover it in more detail.

If you do not know about this benefit, it is essential to know about it to include it in your plan and maybe adapt your insurance coverage. While I do not wish anybody to become unemployed, it is much better to be prepared.

Contributions to unemployment insurance

Each employee in Switzerland will contribute to Unemployment Insurance. As of 2023, 2.2% of your salary (up to 148’200 CHF) will be going to unemployment insurance.

This 2.2% is paid half by your employer and half directly by you. You can look in your salary declarations, and you should see a deduction for this insurance.

Unemployment benefits

First, we should start with how much we get from unemployment benefits.

In general, you will receive 70% of your insured salary. The insured salary is your average salary during the last six months. If the average salary of the previous 12 months is higher, they will use it.

Your insured salary is made of your entire employment income:

  • The base salary
  • The 13th salary (if you get any)
  • Any bonus you would get
  • and so on

It is also important to note that the upper limit of the insured salary is the same as the upper limit for contributions. So, if your total salary is higher than 148’200 CHF, you will not get anymore than 148’200 CHF.

If you meet any of the following requirements, you will get 80% of the insured salary instead of 70%:

  1. Having dependent children under the age of 25.
  2. The monthly insured salary is less than 3797.
  3. Your invalidity rating is at least 40%.

The second thing we must look at is how long you will receive the benefits. Indeed, there is a maximum duration after which you will not receive any more benefits. There are several different cases, each with a different duration.

  1. 200 workdays if you are under 25 and without dependents and have contributed between 12 and 18 months.
  2. 260 workdays if you are under 25, have dependents, and have contributed between 12 and 18 months.
  3. 260 workdays if you have contributed between 12 and 18 months.
  4. 400 workdays if you are under 25 with dependents and have contributed at least 18 months.
  5. 400 workdays if you are older than 25 and have contributed at least 18 months.
  6. 520 workdays if you are under 25, have dependents, have a disability pension, and have contributed at least 22 months.
  7. 520 workdays if you are older than 25 with a disability pension and contributed at least 22 months.
  8. 520 workdays if you are 55 or older and have contributed at least 22 months.

So, the most you can receive unemployment benefits is two full years.

It is also essential to know that there is usually a waiting period between 0 and 20 days. The duration depends on your income and whether you have dependents.

In some cantons, you will be asked to choose an unemployment fund. Several funds pay unemployment benefits. It may be worth checking them out before picking since some are easier to worth with than others.

Conditions to receive unemployment benefits

To receive unemployment benefits in Switzerland, you need to meet a few conditions:

  1. You became entirely or partially unemployed.
  2. You have been employed for at least 12 months in the last two years.
  3. You are a Swiss resident.
  4. You are more than 15 years old.
  5. You are younger than the official retirement age.
  6. You are not receiving a retirement pension.

There are some exceptions to these rules, but generally, unemployment offices are pretty strict about enforcing them.

On top of that, you need to do a few things to stay eligible while unemployed:

  1. You must be ready to accept a job that matches your profile.
  2. You must have started looking for a new job during the notice period.
  3. You must be sending applications regularly.
  4. If suggested, you must attend courses to improve your employability.

You should record your search (all applications and rejection letters). The local unemployment office will request them. It is better to be thorough and on top of it when dealing with them. You should also save all your emails and organize all your correspondence properly to make it easy to review.

Once you have found a job, you need to be careful to continue sending applications for other jobs until the beginning date. This is important because failing to do so may result in a penalty.

Penalties

Knowing that the unemployment office can give you penalty periods is essential. During a penalty period, you will not receive any unemployment benefits. This is important to know because it could put you in trouble if you end up in this case.

The primary source of penalty is if you quit your job yourself. This could delay your benefits by up to 60 working days. So getting a new job before quitting your current one is very important.

You can also get penalties during unemployment if you do not do what the unemployment office requires. For instance, they could penalize you if you do not send enough applications. Or, if you refuse a job they propose, you could have another penalty.

In many cases, penalties are a tool to ensure people do their due diligence to return to work. However, some cases are a little more ambiguous, like getting a penalty for refusing a job 2 hours away.

It is worth knowing that if you get a penalty and do not have enough money to pay your main bills (rent, for instance), you could ask for welfare benefits. Indeed, under some conditions, welfare can cover you while you are under penalty.

Starting a business while unemployed

If you are unemployed and have a good idea for starting a new business, unemployment offices may be able to help you.

You will have to vet the idea with them, but they can offer entrepreneur courses to help you in your journey. In this case, you will not have to submit many job applications or take the first job that you are offered.

However, there is one important condition: You cannot become unemployed to start a company. So, you should not quit your employer in the hope that the unemployment office will help you create a business.

Unemployment and the first pillar

While you are unemployed, you still need to contribute to social security.

You will still pay for the first pillar, disability insurance, and military and parental leave insurance. These contributions are based on your unemployment benefits, not your previous salary. The unemployment office will cover half of the contributions (like your employer did), and you will pay the other half.

The unemployment office covers accident insurance. In some cases, you can keep your current accident insurance, but you will have to pay it yourself. It is up to you to see which insurance is better and whether it is worth paying.

And the unemployment insurance itself is paid in part by the office and in part by you.

So, being unemployed should not result in gaps in contributions to the first pillar. However, this can lower your average salary, lowering your retirement pension.

Unemployment and the second pillar

When you become unemployed, you may have to leave your employer’s pension fund. Generally, pension funds will let you keep your money with them for up to six months before you have to move the funds.

Therefore, if you are hopeful of being unemployed for less than six months, it makes sense to keep your money where it is to avoid having to move it around. That is unless you can find a better vested benefits account than your current pension fund.

For your assets, you have two choices. First, you can transfer your assets to a vested benefits foundation. Your assets will stay there until you find another job or until you can withdraw them.

The other choice is to move your assets to the Substitute Occupational Benefits Institution and subscribe to a voluntary plan. This means you can continue to contribute to your second pillar while unemployed. This could help avoid any gaps and lower your taxes. But you will pay your contribution fully; the unemployment office will not cover half as your employer did.

In both cases, the disability insurance and survivor insurance is covered by the Substitute Occupational Benefits Institution. You and the unemployment office pay the premiums.

Unemployment benefits and self-employment

Self-employed people or people who employ other people are treated differently by the unemployment insurance.

First, if you are self-employed as a sole proprietorship, you are often not entitled to unemployment benefits. Indeed, you are not receiving a salary, which matters for the benefits.

The unemployment office will look at the last four years for self-employed people. You need at least one year of salaried work in the last four years. So, you may only get unemployment benefits if you have just recently started your self-employment.

Therefore, self-employed people should be careful about ensuring they can handle the loss of their income on their own.

People who manage a company and employ other people may not always be entitled to benefits, either. First, they need to give themselves a salary. In general, this is fine, but when the company goes poorly, the founders often stop paying themselves first, so they may reduce their unemployment benefits.

Also, the right to the benefits is only if the founders fully stop their activity. In general, this means closing the company entirely or selling it. The main point is that the person must relinquish any decision rights in the company.

Unemployment benefits and foreigners

We should also look at some variants for foreigners.

First, if you do not live in Switzerland (cross-border worker, for instance), you will not be entitled to unemployment benefits. In this case, your country of residency should cover you for unemployment.

Then, if you have a temporary permit, such as a B permit, be careful that the benefits will only cover you while your permit is valid. So, if your B permit is soon ending and you lose your job, you will likely get benefits for a very short period.

Income protection insurance

If you are worried about unemployment benefits not covering your costs of living, you can take extra insurance.

Several insurers in Switzerland, like Generali, provide income protection insurance. These policies will give you a pension if you become unemployed or disabled. You can choose the amount of pension you want, the waiting period, and the duration of the policy. Your premiums will be computed based on that and your health.

While this sounds like a good deal, I would be careful with this kind of insurance. The only people who need it do not save much money, and these people are unlikely to be able to afford it.

On the other hand, if you save a significant portion of your income, you do not need this insurance since you should be able to deal with a loss of income (from 100% to 70%).

Be careful because, like all complementary insurance, insurers can refuse you if they deem the risk too high. You may be denied if you were already unemployed or in an accident.

But it is interesting to know that this option exists.

Conclusion

We have good unemployment benefits insurance in Switzerland. You can get significant benefits for up to two years.

The system is probably not perfect. The unemployment offices, indeed, may be quite strict with beneficiaries. But if you follow their rules, employees are entitled to a significant pension. However, self-employed people may want to insure themselves if they are worried about unemployment.

Having a great unemployment system means we do not have to worry too much about becoming unemployed in our emergency plans. For instance, we could reduce our emergency fund.

What do you think about our unemployment system in Switzerland? Did I forget anything important about these benefits?

The best financial services for your money!

Download this e-book and optimize your finances and save money by using the best financial services available in Switzerland!

Download The FREE e-book
Photo of Baptiste Wicht

Baptiste Wicht started thepoorswiss.com in 2017. He realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. Since 2019, he has been saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

Recommended reading

40 thoughts on “Unemployment in Switzerland in 2024”

  1. I have a clarification on the point “The other choice is to move your assets to the Substitute Occupational Benefits Institution and subscribe to a voluntary plan.”. Can you only subscribe to a voluntary plan with the Substitute Occupational Benefits Institution if you also move your 2nd Pillar from your previous employer into a Vested Benefits account with them? Or is it possible to open a Vested Benefits account with say, Finpension and a voluntary 2nd Pillar pension plan with Substitute Occupational Benefits Institution?

  2. If an individual wants to move from B to C permit or C permit to citizenship, I believe the immigration office checks if they ever received any such benefit from the system. In that case, it might be beneficial to not opt for any such payout..

    1. Hi Anshuk

      That’s a fair point, but if you have found a job quickly, they should also take that into account (hopefully).
      And of course, you should only consider opting out if you have the financial means of doing that.

    2. You can just reimburse the wellfare benefits once you want to get the C-permit. I would rather invest the money in the meantime and reimburse these benefits when/if needed.

    3. Recieving unployment benefits from RAV doesn’t have an impact on the neutralization process but social help does.

  3. While the article is okay it is too general to be useful to someone that needs pragmatic answers to his/her worries.

    I have listed a few on top of my mind:

    1. I think it is important to mention that your previous 2nd pillar fund will be kept by the previous institution for 6 months still gaining interest rates before going to the Substitute Occupational Benefits Institution. This for me it means that unless one anticipates to be unemployed for more than 6 months it is probably better to delay the decision to move your fund to avoid moving it too frequently.

    https://www.fedlex.admin.ch/eli/cc/1994/2386_2386_2386/de#art_4

    2. On the first day of your unemployment you will receive an account on https://www.arbeit.swiss where you will have to submit 12 applications each month. If you know how to use a computer you won’t need to go to the RAV office much. If you find a job you’ll probably still have to do your 12 applications until your beginning date, so don’t just stop but ask your consultant!
    On this regard remember to save each email you receive from the companies you apply to. You will be asked for them as a proof that you did something during your notice period and then you might be asked again if you’re randomly selected. (on a side note the site has frequently issues so be prepare to deal with it)

    3. If you have an entrepreneurship idea you can ask to sustain you with that. You won’t have to do your monthly searches for a while and you’ll be asked to attend much more interesting courses than “How to write a CV”.
    These are example questions that they ask during the process:
    https://www.zh.ch/de/wirtschaft-arbeit/stellensuche-arbeitslosigkeit/beratung-vermittlung/beratung-zu-selbstaendigkeit/taggelder-fuer-selbstaendigkeit-beantragen.html#242642810

    4. You might be given the opportunity to extend your accident insurance with your current employee, this is not necessary and costly but my understanding is that it usually has a better coverage than the rav’s one. Also the accident insurance expires one month after the end of the contract.

    5. Do not enroll immediately to the unemployment office, start searching for a new job and documenting the process but you have time until the last day of notice! Take your time to process what happened because when you’ll do it you’ll have to “work” for them and that means that you’ll have to earn your right to take holidays, you’ll have to collaborate with them and so you can not reside outside Switzerland and you’ll have to be reachable always.

    6. “You must be ready to accept a job that matches your profile.” This point is much more complex and your salary must match what you’re currently getting as unemployed. You might choose to do a less paid job and they will compensate the missing salary and this way it won’t count on your allowance days. Also depending on where you live and your position it is not unlikely that you will never be matched to any job.

    7. You have to choose an Unemployment Fund first. While in theory it doesn’t matter this is the entity that actually send you the money. Some of them require you to send the document by post, others are more modern, others are faster/slower or won’t speak your language.

    8. It is not a fun process. The more you stay the more it might get more unpleasant and in some cases it might also interfere with your new job’s search as you’re more limited in what you can do and you might need to attend courses that are not helping you.

    The topic of unemployment in Switzerland is much more complex than it seems, it is also slightly different depending on where you live. I hope I haven’t made any mistake. At least this is my experience and there is a French documentary on playsuisse collecting some of the less ideal experiences. Sure it pays, sure it works but if for whatever reason you’re having trouble to find a new job it can be a daunting experience.

    1. Hi Luca

      Thanks for sharing, this is indeed very interesting. I will update my article by expanding on some of these points.

      Could you elaborate on point 7? I thought there was only one unemployment office/fund per canton and you did not have any choice.

      1. Hi Baptiste,
        You don’t have a choice for the office but you can select the fund. The unemployment office sends you a list with all the regional funds. In Ticino I could choose 5 different funds.

        In addition to the cantonal funds there are also private ones (mostly trade unions)
        https://www.arbeit.swiss/secoalv/en/home/menue/institutionen-medien/links-alk.html

        You can also find more information in the respective sites of the private funds.

        What would be curious to know is if the private ones receive an incentive from the Canton/State. I would assume so otherwise why would they do it?

      2. Yes, I have been trying to decide which fund to choose for Canton Geneva. I’ve spent several hours searching, but there is not much information out there as to how to decide on which fund is right for you. There is the Cantonal Fund and then it seems the others are all private union funds, most of which do not require you to join their union. Their websites basically say joining them helps in the process of them fighting for workers rights….the more people, the more power behind them. However, I assume they would want you to join the union at some point (which of course comes at a certain % of your income).

        But for the period of unemployment, is there any difference which fund you choose? Are the course offerings different depending on which fund you choose? Is one more strict than another in their control of documents, etc… Is one more simpler in process than another? No idea. Can you help with this? Of the 5, I have narrowed it down to Unia (private), Syndicom (private and is the only fund offering services in English) or CCGC (Caisse Cantonal Genevoise de Chomage – their portal allows for some English).
        Thanks!!

      3. These are good questions, but I don’t have the answers :)

        The financial benefits are the same because they are dictated by law. I would expect that the differences are mostly in how well managed each of the entity is. The rules are the same, but the way they apply the rules will be slightly different.

        If you are only speaking good English, I think this should be major criteria.
        Unia has a relatively good reputation as a union, but I have no idea about them as an unemployment fund.
        Maybe another reader has experience in Geneva, or you could ask in the forum.

  4. Does sick leave count towards the workdays for unemployment benefits? How is the salary calculated in this case?

    1. They are, but you need to submit a medical certificate from your doctor. The total amount of days you are eligible then are extended. For example, if you are sick for 15 days, that 15 days is negligible in considering the total amount of days you are covered under the unemployment.

    2. The daily allowance payout (salary) remains the same and is unaffected, as long as your sick leave is approved by your medical doctor, you are still within the covered time frame of the unemployment, and you are informing your assigned unemployment counsellor timely.

Leave a Reply

Your comment may not appear instantly since it has to go through moderation. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *