Protection of young people and pregnant women in Switzerland

Special circumstances demand special protective measures. Switzerland therefore has special legal provisions for young people to protect their health and safety as well as their physical and mental development. Special provisions also apply to women during pregnancy as well as during the nursing period.

Can you remember your very first day at work? As an apprentice? Or your first part-time job while you were studying? Can you remember the tasks or work you were given to do? And how you felt? At the beginning of our working life, we start out with very little experience. As young people, we also have different physical and mental requirements to those who have been working for a while. And these requirements need to be taken into account.

In Switzerland, young people in employment  – this refers to employees aged up to 18 years – are subject to the Jugendarbeitsschutzgesetz (Youth Employment Protection Act) that protects their health and safety as well as their physical and mental development. Similar provisions apply to pregnant women and nursing mothers. Their special circumstances mean that they are more sensitive to possible injuries and stresses that are part of their working conditions and their working environment. This is why they are subject to special protection by law.

Identify the risks to female employees

If there are any jobs within a company that might be dangerous or particularly taxing for a pregnant women or her child, an appropriately qualified person must carry out a risk assessment.1

Carry out a risk assessment within the company

Identify any tasks that may be dangerous or particularly taxing to pregnant women or young employees and plan any measures that need to be taken in advance. You will find all the information on legal provisions at SECO (in German). You can also find a summary of that information in the FCOS Box.

Special protection for women during pregnancy

In Switzerland, pregnant women may work a maximum of 9 hours per day. Of these, only 4 should be spent standing. Overtime during pregnancy is not allowed. From 8 weeks before the birth, no work may be carried out between 20:00 and 06:00.  Carrying heavy loads must be avoided in general and stopped entirely from the 7th month of pregnancy. This kind of exertion and unsociable hours, particularly towards the end of a pregnancy, can have a negative effect on the baby’s development in the womb or even cause premature birth. Working conditions must be adapted so that the health of both mother-to-be and child is not put at risk. In addition, during pregnancy women need additional breaks during which they should ideally also be able to lie down.

All mothers in employment have a right to paid maternity leave. Maternity leave begins with the birth of the child, lasts a minimum of 14 weeks (98 days) that must be taken together. Maternity leave ends when the 14 weeks are over or when work is resumed. Mothers are prohibited from working for a period of at least 8 weeks after delivery. Employers may grant their employees longer maternity leave or extend it in agreement with the mother. An employee cannot be dismissed while she is on maternity leave.

Brochure on protection of mothers at work

Pregnant women and mothers enjoy special protection under the law. The SECO brochure explains the statutory provisions, in particular for health protection, continued payment of wages and protection against dismissal as well as information on maternity leave.

Special protective provisions for young employees

Young people under 18 years may only undertake work that is suitable for their age and level of training. They may not carry out any hazardous tasks. Exceptions that apply to young people over the age of 15 years are only permitted if they are indispensable to their basic vocational training. Where this is the case, the company must implement accompanying protective measures. These measures have been approved by the State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER). It is important that young people are adequately and appropriately informed and guided by an adult with expertise in the required area. In addition, the company’s education licence must also be checked by the cantonal authorities.

Young people who work also require a longer rest period than working adults. While adults must have a gap of at least 11 hours between finishing work and starting again on the following day, the daily rest period for young people is 12 hours. Night and Sunday shifts are not allowed for young people. Any exceptions as part of basic vocational training are subject to special conditions and require approval. It should also be noted that there are employment prohibitions and restrictions that apply to certain activities for young people. This includes serving guests in hotels, restaurants and bars or nightclubs.

Brochure on occupational protection of young people

This SECO brochure (in German) provides information on the special provisions of the Labour Act and Youth Employment Protection Act to protect employees under 18 years (in German).

It is always a good idea to plan in advance; that way you will be ready before you actually employ young people or a birth is in the offing.

(Art. 63 Para. 2 Labour Law 1).

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