Learner’s pay

The learners’ pay or salary must be stipulated in the apprenticeship contract. No legal provision lays down an amount; however, numerous trade associations publish recommendations. Local cantonal services or offices responsible for VET can provide information on the salaries that are generally paid to learners enrolled in VET programmes in the region. Generally speaking, learners must receive monthly pay slips when they are paid.

If they are ill and provided that the loss of earnings is not covered by insurance policies, apprentices are entitled to be paid their salary for a limited period of time. This period of time has been set by the courts; it varies depending on the scale applied:

Basel scale
for three weeks during the first year;
for two months during the second and third years;
for three months during the fourth year. 

Bern scale
for three weeks during the first year;
for one month during the second year;
for two months during the third and fourth years. 

Zurich scale
for three weeks during the first year;
for eight weeks during the second year;
for nine weeks during the third year;
for ten weeks during the fourth year. 

Deductions from the gross salary respectively represent the insurance premiums (UI, NOA, LEA, OSI and DI) and the benefits provided by the employer (e.g. room and board). The net salary is obtained after all the deductions have been made. The deductions must be mentioned in the apprenticeship contract. The law stipulates that the insurance premiums for occupational accidents are paid by the employer. Attendance of classes at the VET school, branch courses and optional courses as laid down by law and the taking of the final examination should under no circumstances result in a reduction in salary.

If learners have to take their meals outside when they attend branch courses, they are to pay the amount they would have normally paid if they had not been attending branch courses. The host company is only required to pay the difference.

Bonuses are a special form of pay that do not, in principle, correspond to the thirteenth month of pay. They are given exceptionally and on a discretionary basis (e.g. to reward the learner for particularly good work or the excellent results of the host company). They are nevertheless owed if they have been promised. They are also owed if they are regular payments without prior conditions even if they have not been expressly agreed. If the contractual relationship ceases before the date on which the bonus should be paid, apprentices are entitled to the said bonus in proportion to the time they worked at the host company if the same has been agreed by the parties.

In the event of a disagreement, the matter shall be settled by the courts. Reference shall be made to the provisions of the apprenticeship contract and the collective employment agreement (CEA). The payment of the salary cannot be stopped following illness or injury; it cannot be suspended either until the payment of the insurance benefit.

Military service
If learners have to complete their military service during their VET programme, they are entitled to 80% of their salary in the same proportion as if they were on sick leave. The employer must pay the difference if this amount is not covered by insurance or if it is higher than loss of earnings allowances (LEA).

Net salary
The net amount is calculated after the deductions have been made. The deductions must be indicated in the apprenticeship contract. No deductions whatsoever shall be made for occupational accident insurance, attendance of classes at the VET school, attendance of branch courses and absences to take the final examination.

Enjoyment of the salary
Learners are entitled to manage and enjoy the salary (Art. 323 CC), which is theirs to keep. If they live with their parents, they may be required to contribute to household expenses.

Other fringe benefits
In addition to the basic salary, the apprenticeship contract may also provide for other benefits from the host company, for example bonuses or various other payments (raises, payment of the cost of cleaning working clothes, transport, etc.) but also contributions for room and board.

Work continued at the company
If the apprentice stays to work in the company after the VET programme has ended, even if he/she has not passed the final examination, a new salary is agreed by the parties. The extension of the apprenticeship contract only occurs in particular circumstances. Where applicable, reference should be made to collective employment agreements.

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