Laws In Switzerland: What To Know Before You Move or Visit

laws switzerland

Curious about the laws in Switzerland? Then you are definitely in the right place because this detailed guide will cover all the laws in Switzerland you need to know about.

Some are important to know and very logical, but others are… Weird, to say the least. In any case, here’s a quick rundown of all the most important – and most ridiculous – Switzerland laws!

No Work on Sundays

Switzerland Laws No Work

Switzerland has an actual rule that prohibits work on Sundays and at night. Naturally, certain sectors are exempt from this ban, but employers must get authorization if they want to hire workers on Sunday.

Also, the employee has to consent to this, so technically people can’t be forced to work on Sundays if they don’t want to. Additionally, those who work on Sundays can take time off any other day of the week to make up for the time they spent working. If it’s under five hours, workers are entitled to take the same amount of time off that they spent working. If it’s more than five hours, they’re entitled to take an entire day off work the following week.

In Switzerland, it’s against the law to offer cash compensation instead of time off, so employees are practically forced to rest. Also, people who work up to six Sundays a year are entitled to receive a 50% wage supplement for their work.

The sectors that are exempt from this ban are the health sector, the hospitality industry, the media, and certain shops.

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Education

Switzerland Education

The education laws in Switzerland are diverse because they are regulated by the cantons. The Swiss constitution regulates only primary school, which is obligatory for all children. Primary school is free, and it is mandatory for children, usually at the age of six.

Primary school lasts for eight years, but only the first six years of it are compulsory. Secondary education is also mandatory, but in some cantons, it’s for three years and in others, it’s four years. Other types of education are not mandatory in the country.

Another thing to note is that around 95% of Swiss residents send their children to public schools. There are private schools in the country, but public schools are just as great, which is why most parents choose them.

Punctuality

Switzerland Punctuality

Switzerland is widely known for punctuality, but there aren’t any constitutional laws that regulate it. It’s no secret that the country is number one in Europe by the punctuality of its trains, plus there’s the whole watchmaking industry that’s entirely centered around keeping track of time.

Although Swiss laws don’t regulate it, punctuality is part of the Swiss national identity. Being late is considered rude in Switzerland, so if you’re supposed to meet someone at 3 PM, you can rest assured that they’ll be there on the dot. It can be a bit irritating at first, especially for people who are chronically bad at keeping track of time, but ultimately it’s a sign of respect.

Being on time shows the other person that you respect and value their time, and consequently themselves. Maybe that is why Switzerland is also such a safe country?

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Littering

Switzerland Littering

There have been numerous attempts over the past two decades to create laws that would regulate littering in the country, but none of the attempts came to fruition. At the moment, there is no Swiss law that regulates littering, despite the fact that public trash cleanup costs the country more than 200 million CHF every year.

The most recently proposed laws would set a 300 CHF fine for littering in Switzerland, but the political parties did not manage to come to an agreement that would allow them to pass this law. Littering is not illegal in Switzerland and there is no fine for dumping trash in public places, so technically you could do it. But don’t do it because it’s absolutely disgusting and it would just disappoint everyone around you!

It’s worth noting that one of the reasons why littering isn’t regulated by laws is that the Swiss people are generally very tidy and clean. Recycling is a big deal in the country and everyone is expected to contribute, so it’s kind of ingrained in the people. Also, if you’ve ever visited Switzerland, you probably noticed that the country is very clean for the most part. Especially if you’re in the mountains – while the cities and train stations might not be spotless, Swiss nature is absolutely pristine.

Driving Laws

Swiss Highway
Swiss Highway

Driving laws in Switzerland are similar to those of other countries. You must drive on the right side of the road, you mustn’t drive above the speed limit, and you must have a vignette if you plan to drive on motorways and highways.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the traffic legislation in Switzerland is that winter tyres are not mandatory vehicle equipment. You’d think that, at the very least, you wouldn’t be legally allowed to drive a car with summer tyres in a country that’s famous for its countless mountains, but no.

There is a catch though – the traffic laws prohibit you from driving a vehicle deemed unsafe for the road conditions, and it is at the discretion of police officers to determine whether or not your vehicle is safe. Although winter tyres are not mandatory, there is a minimum tyre tread depth (4mm) for vehicles on the road in winter conditions.

Seatbelts are obligatory for all passengers in the vehicle, headlights must be turned on even during the daytime, and each car must have a warning triangle, a first aid kit, and a safety vest.

Cycling Rules

Switzerland Cycling

Cycling is very popular in Switzerland, so naturally, there are multiple laws and regulations that regulate it. Cyclists in Switzerland are obligated to use the bike lane if available – if not, they must ride on the road. Riding a bike on the sidewalk is prohibited and punishable with a 40 CHF fine, with the exception of children under 12.

Riding a bike without holding the handlebar will also incur a fine, as will riding a bike without any lights. Cyclists also must come to a full stop at a stop sign, and they must obey the traffic lights. One thing to note is that cyclists are allowed to turn right at a red light, but only if it is safe to do so and indicated accordingly.

Dog Adoption

Dog Adoption

Many Swiss citizens own pets, but only around 12% of them own dogs. Owning a dog is highly regulated in the country, so it is a bit tricky for new owners and foreigners who are moving to Switzerland with their canine friends.

The main rule is that all dogs in Switzerland must be microchipped, and Switzerland is actually the only European country that has this law in place. Also, all dogs must be added to a central database and owners have to pay an annual dog tax, just like in Germany.

Foreigners can move to Switzerland with their dogs, but they are required to present all the necessary documentation. This includes health certificates for non-EU dogs, a pet passport, and all the necessary vaccinations. Also, it’s important to note that puppies younger than 56 days can only enter Switzerland if they’re accompanied by their birthmother, which is probably the cutest of all Swiss laws.

Regulating pet ownership in this way minimizes the amount of abandoned and stray animals, and it’s proven to be quite efficient.

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Walk on the left, stand on the right rule

Switzerland is one of the countries that has adopted the “walk on the left, stand on the right” rule for escalators. But it only works in places where there aren’t too many tourists, since many foreigners are not familiar with this Swiss rule. Zurich has the biggest issue with this because of tourists, but in most other cities and towns throughout the country, you will see people standing in a neat line on the right side of on an escalator.

Healthcare

Switzerland Healthcare

Swiss citizens have access to universal healthcare. There are no free health services provided in the country, but the citizens are obligated to purchase private health insurance within the first three months of moving to the country or being born in it.

The way health insurance works in Switzerland is not too dissimilar from the American system, but it’s regulated in a much better way. Insurance is compulsory, so insurance companies cannot set any conditions in relation to the age, sex, or health conditions for coverage.

The insured person must pay a premium for a basic insurance plan. If the premium is too high compared to their income, part of the premium will be subsidized by the government. Also, a deductible must be paid by the insured person – it ranges from 300 CHF to 2500 CHF.

Good Samaritan Laws

Good Samaritan laws are also in place in Switzerland. If you witness a crime, you’re obligated to report it to the authorities at the very least – if you fail to do so, you could be in legal trouble. These laws also state that people are obligated to help someone who is injured or in life-threatening danger, and they must not interfere if others are already helping them.

Other Notable Swiss Laws

We’ve covered all the important Swiss laws above and now we just want to list some of the weirdest Swiss laws that exist in the world.

Certain baby names are banned in Switzerland. It is illegal for parents to give their children a name that could cause them any harm in the future, which is why you won’t come across a native Swiss named Mercedes or Channel.

The Swiss don’t joke about their rest – noisy activities are prohibited on Sundays, and this includes doing laundry and turning on the lawnmower, even at your own house. You’re also not allowed to do any recycling on Sundays, and attempting to do so will include either a hefty fine or a short jail sentence!

You’re not allowed to pee standing up or flush the toilet after 10 PM. This isn’t regulated by an official law, but it is common courtesy, and flushing after 10 PM could anger your neighbors.

Strange Laws in Switzerland

Yes, there are certainly some strange laws in Switzerland. Here is a short list of some of them:

  • Downloading music, movies, and tv shows is legal. But uploading is not.
  • Many pets must be purchased in pairs – ie. You can’t just have one
  • You can’t drive wearing flip-flops
  • No making excessive noise on Sundays
  • Swiss men in the military must take their firearms home
  • Euthanasia is legal. Maybe not strange per see, but unusual

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it illegal to mow your lawn on Sunday in Switzerland?

It is illegal to mow your lawn on a Sunday in Switzerland because it causes too much noise. The Swiss value their rest and recovery on Sunday and anything excessively noisey is not allowed or frowned upon.

Can you shower after 10 in Switzerland?

You cannot shower after 10pm in an apartment block or shared house in Switzerland because it disturbs the peace and quiet. Anything creating excessive noise is not allowed after 10pm, on Sundays or over weekday lunchtimes.

What kind of laws do they have in Switzerland?

Switzerland, like most of Europe, has a civil law legal system where the written law or the enacted law is the main source of law in the country. Within the country there are two areas of civil law, public and private.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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