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Social partnership in action

Social partnership in action

The recognized social partner SBPV negotiates collective labor agreements to regulate working conditions in the financial sector.

ACEBE

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ARWT

What is a collective labor agreement?

Collective labour agreements (CLAs) have been widespread and regulated by law in Switzerland for over a century, and are at the heart of the social partnership. They correspond more or less to the collective bargaining agreements under German law. They are concluded between an employers’ association or an individual company on the one hand, and one or more employees’ associations or trade unions on the other. They regulate various aspects of working conditions and, in particular, ensure decent minimum salaries. The provisions of the CLA automatically apply to all employees subject to it, as a supplement to the individual employment contract.
In a number of industries, CLAs are generally binding, i.e. they apply to all companies in an industry and their employees on a mandatory basis with the approval of the federal government or the canton
Collective labour agreements in the financial industry
Two CLAs exist in the banking industry: The ACEBE, which regulates the general working conditions of employees, and the ARWT, which contains specific regulations on the waiver of working time recording. Neither of these CLAs is generally binding: It is the respective bank that decides whether it wishes to subject itself and its employees to the ACEBE and/or the ARWT.
/>In the banking industry, separate company agreements apply for individual institutions instead of the ACEBE or the ARWT:

What innovations does the ACEBE 2023 bring? Media release ACEBE / ARWT negotiations

What is the ACEBE?

The “Agreement on Conditions of Employment for Bank Employees” (ACEBE) is the collective labour agreement for the financial industry. More than 40 banks are subject to this agreement – including both big banks as well as several private, foreign, regional and cantonal banks and Raiffeisen Switzerland. These banks employ a total of around 80,000 people. Members of management cadre are not subject to the ACEBE.

The signatories to the ACEBE are Employers in Banking (employer side) and the Swiss Bank Employees Association SBEA as well as the Swiss Association of Commercial Employees (employee side).
The ACEBE regulates various working conditions such as working hours and vacations, minimum salaries, social benefits (e.g. continued payment of salary in the event of illness, family allowances) as well as the participation of employees, staff councils and the social partners. It also governs the procedure in the event of layoffs as a result of restructuring. In all of these areas, the ACEBE guarantees conditions that are more advantageous for employees than the legal provisions of, for example, the Code of Obligations, the Labour Law and the Participation Act. The current version of the ACEBE has been in effect since 1 January 2023. Every few years, the provisions are renegotiated between the social partners.
The ACEBE is the benchmark for working conditions throughout the banking industry. This also indirectly benefits those employees who are not subject to the ACEBE – either because they are part of management or because their employer has not signed the ACEBE.

The ACEBE does not apply automatically to all banks. The respective institute must have expressly signed the agreement.

Rights

Is my financial institution subject to the ACEBE?

ACEBE overview

Employability
Working time
Older employees
Vacations and days off
Equality
Continued payment of salary
Wage + allowances
Flexible mobile working
Restructuring

Employability

The financial institutions subject to the ACEBE are required to promote professional development and the maintenance of employability. They must offer their employees the opportunity to attend regular development meetings. These conversations are intended to:

  • represent a situation assessment with regard to employability
  • include professional development and measures aimed at competence development and continuing education

It is now explicitly recommended that such discussions take place regularly every five years from the age of 45.

The banks determine in detail the extent to which working time is credited and costs are covered for further training and other measures aimed at maintaining employability.

Working time

We spend a large part of our lives working. Regulations on working hours make up an important part of our working conditions, and are designed to prevent us from working too much.

For the first time, an article on the regulation offlexible mobile working has been included in the ACEBE. This issue, which has been important not only since the coronavirus pandemic, is sometimes handled very differently among the banks. The development accelerated by the pandemic is being transformed into predictable and stable new working models.

The ACEBE stipulates that normal working hours in the financial sector are 42 hours per week. However, the ACEBE also specifies that the 42-hour week must only be observed as an annual average. The extent to which a positive hourly balance at the end of a month or year is merely a flexitime balance that can be built up and reduced again independently, or actual overtime that must be ordered and approved, is often difficult to determine in individual cases. Overtime balances are now adjusted to the employee’s level of employment, which means that part-time employees are now treated in the same way as full-time employees with respect to overtime pay.

In addition, the provisions of the Labour Law must be observed, which stipulate a maximum weekly working time of 45 hours, which may, however, be exceeded in exceptional cases (Art. 9 – 13 ArG). Sunday and night work is also regulated by law (Art. 16 – 19 ArG).

Working time must be recorded if an employee is to maintain an overview of the hours worked. This is the only way to track whether and how much overtime was worked.

In principle, it is not possible to avoid the recording of working hours, and exceptions can only be made if the employer has signed an agreement – and if certain conditions are also met. For the financial sector, this is the “Agreement on the Recording of Working Time” (ARWT), which forms an annex to the ACEBE.

Older employees

Older employees and also those who have been employed by the same employer for a very long time and have not been exposed to the labour market for a longer period are considered to be particularly vulnerable – they are especially affected by long-term unemployment. The suspicion is also frequently expressed that employers systematically force older employees out of the company – for example by raising the requirements or suddenly changing job profiles.

This is why financial institutions are required to take special measures in the case of intended terminations of older and long-serving employees – and especially if the terminations are for reasons of poor performance or conduct. In the case of redundancies in connection with restructuring, on the other hand, good social plans negotiated with the social partners generally ensure that age and length of service are taken into particular account when assessing benefits (outplacement, severance pay, extended notice period, etc.).

The measures mentioned in the ACEBE include providing information about an intended termination in a timely manner, listening to the affected persons prior to issuing the termination notice, and examining alternative employment options. The knowledge and experience of older employees should also be taken into account in personnel planning. The regular development meetings scheduled from age 45 also serve this purpose.

So who falls under the category of “older and long-serving employees”? This is not precisely defined in the ACEBE. We assume an age range of 50 to 55 with 6 to 20 years of service as a rule of thumb: the older the employee, the fewer years of service are required, and the longer someone has worked at a bank, the lower the age limit. We support a heightened duty of care by the employer for a 50-year-old employee with twenty years of service, just as we do for an employee who is 55 years old and has been with the bank for eight years.

We advise all employees who are affected by a termination and believe they are victims of age discrimination to contact the SBEA. Whether such a termination is abusive or whether the provisions of the ACEBE have also been violated can only be examined on the basis of the individual case.

Vacations and days off

In addition to the working hours, the ACEBE also regulates the minimum number of vacation days per year to which employees are entitled and how these are to be taken. The vacation policy is more generous than the law requires: 25 days, or five weeks, for employees under 60, 28 days for employees over 60.

The ACEBE also requires subordinate financial institutions to provide certain days off and short absences in addition to vacations. During this time, the full salary is paid in each case.

Equality

The world of work in the financial sector is very diverse. In the ACEBE therefore, the social partners make a joint commitment to equal opportunities and the prevention of discrimination.

Equal opportunities for employees regardless of gender, nationality, religion, sexual orientation and age shall be ensured.

The social partners in the banking industry have also set up a joint specialist unit which offers a uniform control process and a seal of quality for wage equality analyses. The staff councils must be informed about the performance and results of these analyses.

Continued payment of salary

There are various reasons why an employee may need to be absent from work through no fault of their own. In the vast majority of cases, accident and illness are unforeseen and have a significant impact on the work situation.

In this case, the ACEBE stipulates that the employees concerned are entitled to 80% of their salary for 720 days – as a rule, the replacement salary is covered by daily sickness benefits insurance. In addition, the employer must pay the full salary for a certain period of time, with the exact period depending on the years of service (ACEBE Art. 29).

During maternity leave (at least 16 weeks), the mother receives 100% of her salary. In the case of paternity leave, 2 weeks may also be granted with full payment of salary, and must be taken within 6 months of the birth. Alternatively, a bank may grant 3 weeks of paternity leave, with full payment of salary for one week and compensation for the remaining two weeks as required by law. For adoptions, a 2 week fully paid leave entitlement applies to both caregivers.

For services of various types (military service, community service, protective service), between 80% and 100% of the salary is paid, depending on the duration and family situation.

Wage + allowances

Salaries are an essential part of the employment contract and as such are largely regulated on an individual basis. Doch auch die VAB enthält Bestimmungen zum Lohn, etwa indem sie den Mindestlohn festlegt und die Finanzinstitute verpflichtet, ein Lohnsystem einzuführen.

The minimum salary in the financial industry is CHF 54,000 and CHF 58,000 for employees with a federal vocational certificate (EFZ). It is up to the banks to decide whether the 13th month’s salary is integrated into the regular monthly salary or paid out in half in June and December.

In addition to the statutory cantonal child allowances, employees also benefit from a family allowance. These are paid until the youngest child reaches the age of 18. If children can be shown to still be in education, the allowances will continue to be paid until the end of their education (up to the age of 25). The receipt of family allowance is linked to the entitlement to receive the cantonal child allowance. In individual cases, this can lead to the termination of the entitlement to benefits – for example, if the child moves to another canton or if the other parent changes jobs.

Flexible mobile working

The SBEA introduced the topic of “flexible mobile working” or “working from home” in the recent ACEBE negotiations. This is not about strict regulation. Banks only have to offer the possibility of flexible mobile working, provided that the operational situation and the individual activity permit. The conditions must be set out in regulations or in a contract.

Irrespective of this, it is still clear that – in the absence of corresponding official regulations – every employee basically has the right to a workplace provided by the employer and may therefore also work 100% at the office – unless the individual employment contract stipulates otherwise.

Restructuring

Restructuring is a common occurrence in the financial industry. The consequences are often borne by the employees, although mass layoffs can in principle affect everyone.

In the event of restructuring, the ACEBE protects employees and helps to cushion the loss of jobs from a social perspective. The banks are obliged to inform affected employees, staff councils and social partners at an early stage and to negotiate suitable measures together with them which are intended to cushion the social hardships of the restructuring or avoid them as far as possible. The ACEBE lists a number of possible such measures to be considered as part of this process: Severance pay, reduction in working hours, internal job placement, generous early retirement arrangements, etc.

A social plan is negotiated together with the staff council and often with the involvement of the social partners. In banks without a staff council, negotiations must be conducted with the social partners. This process defines the exact measures to be taken, which should provide suitable solutions for the individual situation of the persons concerned. Part of the social plan can include extended notice periods or severance pay, outplacements, further training or early retirement with financial support from the employer.

What is the ARWT?

Swiss labour law requires all employees in Switzerland to record their working hours. However, if the social partners in an industry have concluded an agreement to this effect, it is possible to waive working time recording.

Here you can find the corresponding Regulation on the waiver of the recording of working hours.

For the financial industry, this is regulated by the “Agreement on the Recording of Working Time” (ARWT), which was signed by Employers in Banking (employer side), the Swiss Bank Employees Association (SBEA) and the Swiss Association of Commercial Employees (employee side) and is an annex to the ACEBE. It states under which conditions the recording of working hours may be waived and provides guidelines for health protection.

ARWT overview

The ARWT does not automatically apply to all banks. The respective institute must have signed the agreement or be subject to the ACEBE.
In 2022, the social partners renegotiated the ARWT in addition to the ACEBE. The revised treaty has been in force since 1 January 2023.
What’s new? Flexible working hours should be the new rule. The banks are required to promote flexible working models such as flexitime, part-time or job sharing within the scope of operational possibilities and taking into account the needs of employees.

The privacy of employees must now also be explicitly respected in the case of flexible working models.

Recording working time

Is my financial institution subject to the ARWT?

When can I dispense with working time recording?

You can dispense with working time recording altogether if …

  • your employer has signed the ARWT or is subject to the ACEBE
  • your employer meets certain other conditions, i.e. grants 5 weeks of vacation and provides for an average weekly working time of 42 hours below management level. In addition, there must be the possibility of mobile-flexible working.
  • you have a significant working time autonomy. Significant working time autonomy means that you can plan your working hours yourself for the most part and determine your own working hours, compensation times and times of availability largely under your own responsibility.
  • You earn more than CHF 120,000 per year. The salary limit applies in principle to the fixed remuneration, including the 13th month’s salary. If the total compensation including variable salary components such as bonuses amounted to at least CHF 120,000 in each of the last two years of service, the recording of working hours can now also be waived. In the case of part-time work, the salary limit is reduced in accordance with the degree of employment, provided you have signed an individual agreement.
However, the waiver remains voluntary in each case. Employees who meet the conditions for the waiver but wish to continue to record their working hours may not suffer any disadvantages as a result.

You can record your working time in a simplified way if …

There is also the possibility of simplified working time recording. In this case, only the total hours worked are recorded. Their start, end or breaks do not have to be recorded. Simplified or facilitated recording of working hours applies under the following conditions:
  • Your employer has signed the ARWT or is subject to the ACEBE. Alternatively, the employer may negotiate a corresponding agreement with the staff council/employee representation body.
  • You have significant working time autonomy. Significant working time autonomy means that you can plan your working hours yourself for the most part and determine your own working hours, compensation times and times of availability largely under your own responsibility.
Here, too: In any case, the simplified recording of working time is voluntary. Those who wish to do so can continue to record working time in full.

Health protection in connection with the waiver of working time recording

The waiver of working time recording is not only an opportunity but also poses a number of psychosocial risks. Therefore, the ARWT specifies which accompanying measures the employer must take in order to protect employees who dispense with working time recording.

These measures include in particular

  • informing all affected (waiving) employees about the legal framework for working time as well as the psychosocial risks of the waiver
  • a questionnaire that individual employees can use to evaluate their stress factors at least once a year
  • the obligation to hold an interview once a year with all affected employees to evaluate the work volume and psychosocial stress

Are you concerned about the restructuring measures of your company?

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