Protection of Mother and Child

Employers are required to employ pregnant and nursing employees in a manner that does not adversely affect their health or the health of their children. This includes, among other things, the following requirements for the working environment:

  • Room temperature of min. 15°C and max. 28°C;
  • Prohibition to enter oxygen-reduced work environments;
  • Observance of the maximum sound pressure level values;
  • Limitation of the load weight to 5 kg from the 6th month of pregnancy onwards.

Employers must further provide pregnant or nursing employees with a separate, clean, quiet room with good climatic conditions and a comfortable area to lie and rest. The number of such rooms in a company has to be determined on a case-by-case basis. It is also possible for several companies to join together and have one or more rest rooms.

Absence from work

Pregnant and nursing employees may only be employed with their consent and have the right to leave their workplace at any time upon prior notice. If a pregnant employee is absent from work due to her pregnancy and the relevant eligibility requirements are met, the employer must pay the salary for a limited period of time in accordance with the applicable cantonal scale.

Working hours and rest periods

Pregnant and nursing employees must not work for more than 9 hours per day and must not work overtime. Employers must offer pregnant employees who contractually work between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. equivalent work between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. whenever possible. If equivalent work cannot be offered, employees may refuse to work and are entitled to 80% of their regular salary, including appropriate compensation for lost wages in kind. This right also applies to mothers who wish to work between the 8th and 16th week after childbirth. Pregnant employees must not work between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. during 8 weeks before delivery.

In the case of work that is mainly performed in a standing position, there are the following requirements regarding rest periods:

  • From the 4th month of pregnancy: daily rest period of 12 hours and an additional short break of 10 minutes after every second hour;
  • From the 6th month of pregnancy: daily rest period of 12 hours and an additional short break of 10 minutes after every second hour.

Maternity leave

Employees are entitled to maternity leave of 14 weeks after delivery. The right to maternity leave applies regardless of whether the employee is employed for a limited or unlimited period of time. Under Swiss labour law, an employee must not work for 8 weeks after delivery. After this 8-weeks period, the employee may resume work.

In principle, employers are not obliged to remunerate employees covered by social insurance in Switzerland during maternity leave, as they are entitled to a state maternity allowance of 80% of their regular salary up to a certain daily maximum (2023: CHF 220) for 98 days after delivery. However, it is not unusual for the employer to cover the difference of 20% to the regular salary.

Nursing employees

Nursing employees shall be given the necessary time off for nursing or expressing milk. In the first year of the child's life, the following time is considered as paid working time:

  • for a daily working time of up to 4 hours: at least 30 minutes;
  • for a daily working time of more than 4 hours: at least 60 minutes;
  • for a daily working time of more than 7 hours: at least 90 minutes.

Dismissal protection

Under Swiss labour law, an employer must not dismiss an employee during pregnancy and for 16 weeks after delivery. A dismissal during this period is null and void.

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Are there any uncertainties or would you like further advice regarding your obligations as an employer concerning pregnant and nursing employees? Contact our employment law team, we will be happy to help you. Originally published by Valérie Schrämli.