Thursday, August 06, 2009

Laid off in Switzerland? What to do first.

If you’re reading this and have been recently laid off, don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to recent statistics, unemployment is the highest it has been in Switzerland since the 1990s. And due to a lag behind other economies, Switzerland’s job market isn’t forecast to improve until December 2010.

If you’re a foreigner in Switzerland, chances are you’re going to be let go first. From my experience, the RAV in my town is filled with people speaking High German and bad German, two give-aways that most of us newly unemployed are not Swiss.

Most contracts in Switzerland require employers to give their employees three-months notice upon terminating their employment. This sounds nice, but emotionally, it can be hard to keep working for a company after they’ve let you go—especially if you’re an American like me who isn’t used to the concept (to help you through the pain, read about how I survived my notice period or email me for audio files to a 4-part series I wrote and performed for World Radio Switzerland on being laid off, Swiss Style—yes, my first job after being laid off was to write about the experience).

Anyhow, here are the first five things you should do upon being laid off in Switzerland:

1. Take your official “laid off letter” to your local city hall. They will give you a piece of paper (stamped of course, the Swiss love stamps) that proves you are laid off. (Don’t ask me why the original letter isn’t proof).

2. Start looking for employment. If you can’t prove that you’ve been looking for work during your notice period then you can lose some of your unemployment benefits. (Note: to be eligible for benefits, typically you must have lived and worked in Switzerland for a certain amount of time…at least a year and possibly two. I don’t want to give specifics here for the chances of being wrong since all of these numbers depend on situations and permits). FYI, your current employer is legally required to give you time off for interviews and job hunting.

3. Get a Zeugnis (a reference letter) from your employer. They may let you write it yourself, and if so, learn the “code” words (i.e. use as many adjectives in a row as possible until it sounds utterly ridiculous and then you’ve probably got it right) so you can make sure you sound as great as possible (at least in Swiss terms—I would never show this letter to an American employer—it sounds way too over the top to be real…hmm but then again that sounds like most of Swiss life).

4. Register at your local RAV. You must do this before the first day of
official unemployment. Brace yourself for huge piles of paperwork in a language other than your own. At my RAV, no one speaks English, so maybe you’ll be more fortunate. You must bring the paperwork talked about in #1 as well as your CV, Diplomas, ATM card, Zeugnis, and Permit.

5. Register at the ALK (the RAV will give you these forms after you do point #4).

Pray that unlike me, you fill out all the million forms correctly and actually start getting unemployment checks for your efforts. But if you don’t, look on the bright side, your vocabulary will really improve fast.

Good luck. If you have questions, comments, or something you’d like to know more about on the topic of unemployment in Switzerland leave them below and I’ll do my best to answer or create new posts based on them.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week, How to Find a Job in Switzerland.


M'dame Jo said...

About the notice time... It goes something like: one month if you've been employed for a year, two months of you've been employed for two years, and three months above. If you have a critical position in your company and that letting you work after you got laid off is not in the company's interest, you'll get paid for the three months but won't be allowed at work. It can happen.

Don't quote me on this, but I think that if you're fired because of a serious work mistake, there's no such notice and you may not qualify for unemployment for a while. Also, if you leave your job, you won't qualify for unemployment for a while, unless you left for a good reason - to be defined (health, mobbing). Also, some rules are Kanton dependent...

Chantal said...

I guess the notice time varies: I had one month until a year and then it went directly to three months. And yes, you can get paid without working at all during your notice period depending on what the company decides.

cadiz12 said...

they closed down our office and we were all laid off two months into my time at the job, but we had to continue working another three months.

it was hard for me to try and find another job while having to still work through the notice time.

Chantal said...

In Switzerland, it's hard to find a job when you're on unemployment because you're too busy running around doing paperwork and going to "advising" meetings instead of being able to focus on the real goal..employment.

The Antiques Diva™ said...

What a practical post and in this day and age ALL to relevant to many an expat! Read your article on this in the Swiss News and enjoyed it!!

Chantal said...

Thanks. Yes, I plan to post more on issues of job searching, self-employment, and unemployment because these are all difficult issues on their own, but for expats they are even more complicated.

Sean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean said...

Watching this with interest. Put my one blog into mothballs but this may be a reason to come out of it again... after the end of this month that is :))))) Nice very useful post!

Chantal said...

Thanks, glad you found it helpful. Post on finding jobs in Switzerland will be up on Thursday.

Wide Eyed Gypsy said...

It is even tougher to find a job as an expat in the current environment. In fact the cost controls have enabled hiring managers to take extended summer vacations!

I've also been working with outplacement services, they add an interesting new wrinkle to the HR services market. They handhold you and help you network if you happen to become unemployed for any reason, but charge you an arm and a leg for it!

Chantal said...

I couldn't agree more, the number of English jobs out there I could count on one hand. I'm interested to hear about these outplacement services you talk about. I'm under the impression that if you are unemployed, the RAV will sponsor you to take courses, etc.

Anonymous said...

The new naturalization certificate looks much more difficult to counterfeit, with all professional resume examples of the color-shifting background ink.

Anonymous said...

After getting laid off one should first secure his/her living. As Switzerland is a hot tourist spot there are some travel guide on bartender jobs. One should try one of these jobs to secure his/her living and then find new jobs.

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