According to Swiss immigration law, employers are required to reimburse all travel, housing and meal expenses that employees incur in connection with their assignment to Switzerland. The Swiss government will now limit this obligation to one year as of 1 April 2020.
Employers who assign employees to work in Switzerland, either on a project or as intra-company assignees, must reimburse all expenses that arise in relation to their assignment for the entire duration of their assignment. Art. 2 para. 3 of the Swiss Posted Workers Act stipulates that all assignment-related allowances are considered part of the employee's remuneration except for the reimbursement of expenses incurred by the assignee, such as for travel, food and housing.
What is changing?
In its session of 19 February 2020, the Federal Council decided to amend art. 1a of the Ordinance of the Swiss Posted Workers Act and art. 22a of the Ordinance on Admission, Residence and Gainful Employment. These articles stipulate that employers are no longer obliged to reimburse assignment-related expenses incurred in the case of assignments of more than twelve continuous months after the initial twelve months have passed.
This amendment will enter into force on 1 April 2020.
The amendment does not apply to assignees who earn a minimum wage either according to a collective bargaining agreement that has been declared generally binding or under a so-called 'standard employment contract'.
What should companies consider?
The provisions as described in this alert do not apply to companies using a 'host-based' assignment model for assignments longer than twelve months, i.e. those issuing local employment contracts for the duration of an assignment.
However, companies using a 'home-based' assignment model, i.e. the home company's contract remains in place and valid, may, in line with their own internal global mobility policies, limit the payment of assignment-related allowances (typically, those for food and housing) after the first twelve months if the assignment lasts longer than a year.
There may be some discrepancies in how the various authorities implement this new regulation, but we expect that employers will be able to reduce overall assignment allowances, especially those that compensate the food and housing costs of employees who have been on assignment in Switzerland for longer than twelve months and/or employees who will be assigned to work in Switzerland for longer than one year in the future.
For any questions in connection with this alert, please contact the Immigration Team of PwC Switzerland at firstname.lastname@example.org.