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Created on 06.05.2019

Keeping a cool head if you lose your job

The journalist Anna Wintour once said: “Everyone should get sacked at least once. It forces you to look at yourself.” Even though there is probably some element of truth to this, most employees wouldn’t be too happy to learn that they had been dismissed. Let’s be honest: losing your job is not a pleasant experience and is something that would make most people feel anxious. Is it a dent in my career? Or perhaps even a threat to my very existence? It is important to keep a cool head at this stage and to bear a few things in mind that will help you make the most of this time.

Before you react to the situation in any way, you should begin by looking at your contract to make sure you know all about your terms of employment. How long is your notice period? What about outstanding holidays and financial benefits such as bonuses? 

Do you know your rights?

The statutory notice period depends on how long you have been working for the company. During your probation period, the notice period is only seven days. During your first year, it is a month, rising to two months from your second year onwards. If you have been at the company for ten years or more, it increases to three months. These notice periods apply if no other provisions have been made by the employer. However, most employers stipulate an individual notice period in the employment contract. This is generally three months.

Termination without notice: when does it apply?

One exception to these rules is termination without notice. If there are good grounds to do so, an employer may terminate an employee’s contract without a notice period, as per Art. 337 of the Swiss Code of Obligations. In order for an employer to terminate a contract without notice, the employee must have committed serious misconduct such as bribery, threats or theft, or less severe transgressions such as failing to show up to work without any explanation or failing to do work on multiple occasions. If your contract is terminated without notice, you have the right to appeal against the decision. In this instance, a court will determine whether your termination without notice was lawful. Incidentally, you can also leave without giving notice if your employer has failed to pay your wages on multiple occasions, or in the event of privacy breaches.

In case of extraordinary termination, you should absolutely seek legal representation. A lawyer who specializes in labour law will know the ins and outs of statutory regulations and can help you put forward your case. If the termination of your contract is invalid, e.g. if your contract is terminated during pregnancy, you will not later receive any unemployment insurance support.

Ask for a written justification

If your contract is terminated, you must seek an explanation. After all, the grounds for dismissal may have an impact on your future. In the best-case scenario, a written explanation will show that you are not personally responsible for the termination of your contract. In the worst-case scenario, however, you may indeed have given your employer grounds for termination, so you should not expect to receive any unemployment benefits for a certain period of time. Even though your employer does not need to give any grounds for terminating your contract in the event of ordinary termination, you can (as per Art. 335 para. 2 of the Swiss Code of Obligations) ask your employer to provide a written justification for your termination so you can verify you have not been dismissed unlawfully.

In any case, regardless of how your contract is terminated, be sure to make a clean break. The rights and obligations of both the employer and employee remain in force even during the notice period. Carry on doing your job as well as you possibly can, so that you leave a good impression despite having been dismissed. After all, you never know when you may cross paths with someone again.

Start looking for a job right away

If you do not start looking for a new job during the notice period, you may lose unemployment benefits. Be sure to document your applications. You are expected to submit between 10 and 12 applications each month. Your employer will have to give you time off for any interviews, and half a day a week is deemed reasonable. At this stage, you should also request an interim reference to make your search easier.

Register with your regional employment center in good time

You must visit your regional employment center no later than your first day of unemployment. Ideally, you should register with them as soon as your contract has been terminated. Your regional employment center can give you helpful tips for your job search and can also check whether your contract has been terminated lawfully.

Registration varies between cantons. Generally speaking, you will first need to register with your municipality of residence, then your employment center and lastly with the unemployment insurance fund. One exception to this is the city of Zurich. You will need to take the following documents: OASI (Old Age and Survivors Insurance) ID, a permanent residence permit or foreigner’s residence permit if available.

What about accident insurance?

If your contract is terminated, you will still be insured against accidents outside of work (at no premium) for 30 days after your notice period has come to an end. If you are receiving unemployment benefits, compulsory insurance with Suva comes into effect. The amount is deducted directly from your benefits. Insurance gaps may occur if a decision is yet to be made on your right to unemployment benefits. In this event, you should take out interim insurance with your former employer’s accident insurance provider, which will extend your coverage to a maximum of 180 days. This is important even if you do not register as unemployed. The premium costs amount to CHF 25 a month.

Scrutinize your fixed costs

Your notice period is a good time to examine your regular expenses and to try and make savings wherever you can. If you are not starting a new job straight after your old job, you ought to reduce ongoing costs to tide yourself over until you start work again. Wash your shirts and blouses yourself rather than taking them to the cleaner’s. Cancel your cleaning service and any subscriptions you have.

Awareness is advised if your employer has terminated your contract. If you read up on your rights and obligations early on and take appropriate action, losing your job should not be a cause for despair. Create a checklist to ensure that you can keep track of everything and that you don’t forget anything important.

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