Unemployment and unemployment benefits in Switzerland – Explanations

Facing the challenge of unemployment, asking the right questions is essential. Whether you’re recently unemployed or anticipating this situation, understanding how unemployment works in Switzerland is crucial.

This article has been written to help you understand every aspect of unemployment benefits in Switzerland: from eligibility and registration, to the calculation of benefits, and its impact on your career.

We guide you through the intricacies of the Swiss unemployment system, helping you navigate this period with confidence and insight.

Understanding unemployment in Switzerland : the conditions

Eligibility – How long must you have worked to be eligible for unemployment benefits ?

In Switzerland, access to unemployment benefits is governed by specific criteria. It’s important to understand these to know if you can benefit from such support.

  • Work conditions : To be eligible, you must have worked at least 12 months in the past two years.
  • Minimum income : An average monthly salary of at least 500 Swiss Francs (approximately 600 USD) is required for eligibility.
  • Employment status : Most employees are covered, with the exception of self-employed individuals and certain senior executives.
  • Unemployment status : Being partially or fully unemployed and registered with the employment services is essential.
  • Residence : Nationality is not a criterion, but you must reside in Switzerland.
  • Age and contributions : You must have completed compulsory education, not be of retirement age, and have paid contributions during the required period.
  • Capacity to work : Being fit and ready to accept a reasonable job is a mandatory condition.

These criteria determine your eligibility for unemployment benefits, a crucial aspect to ensure a smooth transition during this period of professional change.

Registering for unemployment

Registering for unemployment is an important step to benefit from the services. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Early notification : It is crucial to inform the Regional Employment Office of your unemployment situation as soon as possible.
  • Required documents : For registration, you will need your AVS number (social security number).
  • Initial consultation : Following your notification, an initial consultation is scheduled within 15 days. Prepare the following documents : AVS insurance card, official identification, proofs of your job search efforts, and other information required by the ORP.

This registration procedure is fundamental to establish your right to unemployment benefits and to start your journey.

Calculating unemployment benefits

How are unemployment benefits calculated ?

The amount of unemployment benefits in Switzerland is based on your insured salary. Here are the key points :

  • Coverage percentage : You will receive 80% of your insured salary if you have family support obligations, an insured salary lower than 3,797 CHF (approximately $4,556 USD), or if you receive a disability allowance corresponding to a disability degree of at least 40%. In other cases, you will receive 70% of your insured salary.
  • Calculation basis : The calculation is based on the average salary subject to AVS (legal old age pension) that you received during the 6 months, or if more advantageous, 12 months preceding your unemployment.
  • Deductions : Mandatory social insurance contributions and, for foreigners, possible withholding tax, are deducted from the unemployment benefit amount.

Resignation and entitlement to unemployment benefits

In Switzerland, resigning from your position without having a new job in view can significantly impact your rights to unemployment benefits.

In such cases, we talk about voluntary unemployment or being at fault for your unemployment. This leads to suspension days, during which you must register with the ORP and follow the required procedures, but without receiving financial benefits. These suspensions can extend over several months.

A notable exception is presenting a medical certificate attesting to the inability to continue professional activity for health reasons.

Example of unemployment benefit calculation

Suppose you have an average insured salary of 4,000 CHF per month. If you don’t have family support obligations or a disability allowance, you will receive 70% of this amount, which is 2,800 CHF (approximately $3,360 USD) per month.

This amount can vary depending on the working days in the month and will be adjusted after deducting social contributions and applicable taxes.

Managing the impact of unemployment on your career

Professional development during a period of unemployment

Unemployment can be a conducive time for developing new skills.

Use this time to refresh your knowledge or acquire new ones through online courses or workshops.

Moreover, maintaining and expanding your professional network can open doors : participate in events, conferences, or engage on platforms like LinkedIn.

You might also consider starting your own business (LLC or Corp) or obtaining a freelance or self-employed status, which will allow you to develop an activity that fulfills you.

Preparation for returning to employment

Taking care of your mental and physical health is essential.

Engage in activities that promote well-being, such as sports or meditation. Get involved in volunteer activities or personal projects to enrich and improve your resume and demonstrate your proactivity.

At the same time, prepare for future job interviews and be open to opportunities outside your usual field.

Flexibility can lead to unexpected and rewarding career paths.

FAQ on unemployment in Switzerland

How to check if a dismissal is not unfair ?

When you receive a dismissal letter, check the compliance with legal procedures, including the notice period or adherence to the Bern scale. For example, you cannot be dismissed during sick leave or if you are pregnant. Finally, immediate termination of the employment contract must be justified by serious reasons.

Who is entitled to unemployment benefits in Switzerland ?

You are entitled to benefits if you are partially or totally unemployed, have worked at least 12 months in the last two years, are domiciled in Switzerland, are over 15 and under 64 or 65 years old, and do not receive an AVS pension. You must be ready to start work and actively seeking employment.

How to register for unemployment ?

Register for unemployment as soon as possible, no later than the first day desired for benefits. Registration is done personally online or at the regional employment office (ORP). A first interview at the ORP will take place within 15 days of registration.

What documents are needed for unemployment registration ?

Bring your AVS/AI insurance certificate or health insurance card, ID card or passport, proofs of your job search, and the “PD U2” form for EU/EFTA nationals.

How is the unemployment benefit calculated ?

The benefit is generally 70% of your insured earnings, calculated on the average salary of the last 6 or 12 months. It can be 80% under certain conditions, such as caring for children or having an insured salary lower than 3,797 francs.

What is the duration of entitlement to unemployment benefits ?

The duration depends on your age, maintenance obligations, and contribution period. The number of daily allowances varies according to these criteria.

What is the status of cross-border workers regarding unemployment ?

Foreigners who have worked in Switzerland with a B or C permit are entitled to benefits. Cross-border workers (G permit) receive benefits in their country of residence but can use the services of the ORP in Switzerland.

What about unemployment for the self-employed ?

Self-employed individuals are not insured against unemployment and therefore do not have the right to benefits in case of job loss.

Do I have the right to unemployment if I resign from my job ?

Resigning without a job in view is considered voluntary unemployment and leads to a suspension period where you do not receive unemployment benefits.


Navigating the unemployment system in Switzerland may seem complex, but with the right information, it becomes more manageable.

Keep these tips and pieces of information in mind during your journey, and remember that this period can also be an opportunity for growth and professional development.

With the right approach, unemployment can become a constructive stage in your career path.

Romain Prieur

Romain est le fondateur de la Fiduciaire Karpeo à Genève. Il est expert-comptable diplômé et participe activement à la formation des futurs experts-comptables via sont rôle de chargé de cours auprès de EXPERTsuisse. Romain est également le co-fondateur de la plateforme entreprendre.ch qui permet la création d'entreprises en Suisse.