Who pays when cross-border workers lose jobs?

Job application forms at the unemployment insurance fund in canton Bern Keystone

Switzerland could start paying more for unemployed cross-border commuters under European Union proposals to change the benefits system.

This content was published on December 19, 2016 and agencies/jmh

The European Commission is discussing whether to require the nation where a person works to pay their unemployment benefits in case they lose their job. That would signal a big change for Switzerland and the more than 300,000 people who hold jobs in the country, but reside outside its borders.

Switzerland is not a member of the EU and the commission’s decisions do not automatically apply to their agreement on the free movement of people. The proposals, however, could mean hundreds of millions of francs of extra costs for Switzerland, reports Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag.

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Anyone gainfully employed in Switzerland must pay contributions into the Swiss social security system and is entitled to benefits. Switzerland, whose higher salaries and standards of living are an attractive lure for job seekers in neighbouring countries, now offers a maximum of five months of unemployment benefits for cross-border workers. Swiss residents can receive up to about 21 months of benefits.

How it works

As a rule, cross-border commuters who become wholly unemployed already generally receive unemployment benefits from their country of residence. However, if they become only partially unemployed or unemployed due to inclement weather, they are entitled to Swiss unemployment insurance benefits.

Unemployment insurance generally provides benefits for unemployment, reduced working hours, or the insolvency of the employer, and pays for reintegration measures. The benefits for Swiss citizens and permanent residents typically amount to about 70% of their average wage over the last six months to a year. Insured persons with children may receive 80% of their average salary.

Federal figures for the second quarter of 2016 showed there were 169,056 French, 69,615 Italian, 59,695 German, and 8,001 Austrian cross-border workers in Switzerland.

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