Inability to work and sick leave

During an employee’s unexpected absences, does the employer have to continue paying their salary? Here is the process explained. 

There can be many reasons why an employee is unable to work. The employer must be prepared for all eventualities and be aware of the circumstances in which it is required to continue paying the employee during their absence. 


When an employee is absent due to illness or accident, the employer must continue to pay their salary. But for how long? There are two main scenarios:

  • The employment contract does not provide for any daily insurance benefits. In this case, the employee pays their full salary for a period determined according to the number of years of service. In fact, subject to longer periods fixed by agreement, standard employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements, the employer pays three weeks' salary during the first year and, thereafter, the salary for a longer period fixed fairly, taking account of the duration of working relations and the specific circumstances.
  • The employment contract does provide for daily insurance benefits for both parties. This scenario is common practice. Most daily insurance benefits in the case of illness confer entitlement to at least 80% of salary for 720 or 730 days over a period of 900 days.

In the case of illness, the employer may in principle require the worker to present a doctor’s certificate from the first day’s absence. However, many contracts provide for such a measure only from the third or fourth day. 

Illness of a child

A worker may be absent to look after a sick child on the condition that they provide the employer with a doctor’s certificate. The period during which the worker is unable to work may be up to three days, depending on the age and health of the sick child. Some circumstances however, require a longer absence. In that case, the salary is due for a limited period, according to the same rules as those applicable in the case of a worker not covered by insurance (see above). However, parents must try to find alternatives, barring exceptional cases. 

Other reasons

Many other reasons may prevent a worker from going to work. If the reasons concern the worker directly (accident, pregnancy, death of a relative, etc.), the same rules as those applicable in the case of illness of a worker not covered by insurance (see above) apply (Art. 324a CO).

As far as military service or civil service is concerned, the employer must pay a minimum of 80% of the employee’s daily salary. However, the employer receives daily compensation under the allowance for loss of earnings scheme.

By contrast, if the worker is unable to work due to an event which affects a group of people in the broadest sense, for example, a traffic jam or flight cancellation, then the employer is not required to pay the salary.


Last modification 27.02.2020

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