As a progressive employer, PostFinance offers its employees many attractive employment conditions, for instance unpaid leave, which all employees can benefit from – regardless of how long you have been employed. The period of leave can last up to a year, and employees can use it however they see fit, whether for advanced training, maternity or paternity leave, or for travel. Lisa Rohrer, Campaigns and Communication Manager at PostFinance, seized the opportunity and spent half a year abroad.
Unpaid leave: what are the benefits and what you need to bear in mind
A big trip, study abroad or extended maternity leave – and then back to work: at PostFinance, this is possible with unpaid leave. We ask how rewarding unpaid leave is, and what you need to bear in mind when it comes to OASI, your pension fund and insurance policies.
Lisa, you work as Campaigns and Communication Manager with PostFinance, and you recently took unpaid leave. How long were you away for, and what did you get up to?
My partner’s employer offered him the chance to take paternity leave in Australia from January until June 2022. Thanks to the six months of unpaid leave he received, I was able to accompany him. His employer paid for the flight and for an apartment in Sydney, and we sublet our own apartment. This helped keep our expenses at a reasonable level. The experience was priceless. I really enjoyed exploring the city and the surrounding area, as well as discovering new things, for instance I joined a pottery course. All in all, I was off for seven months. Thanks to the flexibility offered by PostFinance, I was able to make up for an additional month off with overtime and annual leave. This gave me two weeks when we returned to get back into the swing of things again.
How important was the option of taking unpaid leave when you applied to PostFinance?
When I was applying, it wasn’t absolutely crucial, and I wasn’t aware of it either. When I found out about it, I thought it was a really exciting opportunity, but it only ended up being important when it became relevant to us. It’s great what PostFinance offers its employees.
You took unpaid leave for the very first time. How was it for you?
No trouble at all. When the offer came up, I had an open discussion with my manager. I told her we were considering it, and asked whether I’d be able to take unpaid leave. Seeing as my absence could be covered, there was luckily no obstacle to us going ahead with it. We quickly settled the formalities, and the agreement was soon signed. I also had an informative discussion with HR about OASI, my pension fund and insurance.
What did you have to do in this respect?
I didn’t have to do anything about OASI seeing as I managed to reach the minimum amount in 2022. I then paid into my pension fund and into pillar 3 to avoid any gaps in coverage. I also took out interim accident insurance with Suva, as well as overseas insurance cover with my health insurance provider for the six months.
What tips do you have for colleagues looking to take unpaid leave?
I recommend having an open discussion with your manager as soon as possible, and going through your plans. You should also set aside time to have a serious think about your insurance and retirement provisions. It may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but it is well worth it. I set aside some time one afternoon to phone up all the relevant people just to clarify a few things, and this was really helpful (see the following questions). I can only recommend all my colleagues to make use of this fantastic opportunity if they ever get the chance.
Accident coverage, OASI, pension fund and travel insurance: what you need to consider if you’re thinking about taking unpaid leave
If you want to take unpaid leave, whether it’s for a few weeks or a year, there are a few things you should consider:
Only certain types of unpaid leave are governed by law, such as maternity and paternity leave. This is why it’s advisable to come to an agreement on the duration of the unpaid leave. Additionally, any requirements of an individual or collective employment contract (CEC) should also be considered.
The coverage provided by mandatory occupational accident insurance comes to an end after 31 days. However, if you take out interim accident insurance with the employer’s accident insurer, coverage can be extended to a maximum of six months.
If you are planning a long trip, you should take out an overseas health insurance policy either with your health insurer or a travel insurer. This provides coverage abroad that mandatory health insurance provides in the policyholder’s own country.
During unpaid leave, you remain covered for up to seven months, but you are not entitled to claim benefits. If the unpaid leave lasts longer, you do have the option of switching to the AXA individual policy.
If you pay the minimum contribution amount of 514 francs a year for individuals not in employment (as of 2023), you will be able to avoid any gaps in coverage.
If the unpaid leave lasts longer that one year, the contribution period during the two-year qualifying period is no longer granted. This may also be the case earlier if the obligation to contribute was not (in part) met in the twelve months prior to the start of the unpaid leave.
If you pay your own and your employer’s contributions into the Swiss Post pension fund during the period of unpaid leave, you remain insured against the risks of death and disability. You cannot pay savings contributions for the period. You can, however, pay into your pension fund once the unpaid leave has come to an end. What you can do, though it is not recommended, is cancel your insurance policy with the Swiss Post pension fund when the unpaid leave commences.
Family allowances are paid once the unpaid leave has begun for the current month and three further months, provided that the annual salary subject to OASI contributions still amounts to CHF 7,350, and that the person resumes work with the same employer once the unpaid leave has come to an end.
No work, no leave. This means that, during unpaid leave, the annual leave a person is entitled to does not increase.
Essentially, the right of termination is not restricted by unpaid leave, unless an agreement to the contrary was reached. However, any termination only becomes effective upon its receipt.
There is no need to mention leave of one or two months. Longer periods of absence, however, are generally recorded. If the employee is against this, the unpaid leave may only be mentioned in the event that failure to do so would generate a misleading impression of the person’s professional experience.
If you use your unpaid leave for travel, you can protect yourself from excessive costs by taking out a travel insurance policy. There are several providers, but with major differences between them. This means that it isn’t the price that should be the deciding factor when choosing, but your own individual needs.
And last but not least: it’s a very good idea to come up with a cost summary and a budget for your fixed costs. What’s more, it’s important to ensure all premiums are paid before you set off so that you’re covered in full, and you avoid any gaps in coverage.
Lisa Rohrer has been Campaigns and Communication Manager with PostFinance since 2020. Seeing as she and her partner once again have the opportunity to spend a longer period of time abroad, she left PostFinance at the start of 2023.