CMS Expert Guide to employment termination law and legislation

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1. Dismissal of employees

1.1 Reasons for dismissal

An employer may not dismiss an employee without a legally valid cause.

Dismissal may be based on personal grounds (e.g. disciplinary dismissal, dismissal due to professional inadequacy, dismissal due to incapacity) or economic grounds (e.g. economic difficulties, technological changes), or subject to specific conditions, without stating a specific motive.

Notice may be given without providing any reason (‘Kündigungsfreiheit’).

Both employer and employee may end the employment relationship without providing reason or cause.

However, a dismissal must not be abusive (wrongful or unlawful dismissal). Subject to certain exceptions, such a notice is unlawful where issued:

  • due to an inherent personal quality of the other party (skin colour, nationality, sexuality); or
  • because the other party exercises a constitutional right; or
  • solely in order to prevent claims under the employment relationship from accruing to the other party; or
  • because the other party asserts claims under the employment relationship in good faith; or
  • because the other party is performing military service or a non-voluntary legal obligation; or
  • because the employee is or is not a member of an employees’ organisation or because he carries out trade union activities in a lawful manner; or
  • while the employee is an elected employee representative on the works council and the employer cannot cite just cause to terminate his employment; or
  • in the context of mass redundancies ordered by the employer if the consultation process is not observed.

In any of the above circumstances, the notice remains valid,  but the party abusively giving notice may be obliged by the court to pay an indemnity of up to six months' salary.

The employer may not terminate the employment relationship during the following periods, and notice given during these periods is void:

  • while the other party is performing Swiss compulsory military service, and during the four weeks preceding and following the service if the service lasts for more than 11 days; or
  • while the employee, through no fault of his own, is (partially) prevented from working due to illness or accident, for up to 30 days in the first year of service, 90 days between the second and fifth years of service, or 180 days thereafter; or
  • during the pregnancy of an employee, and for 16 weeks following the birth.

1.2 Form

The employee must be notified of the dismissal in writing.

There is no specific requirement. Notice of termination may be communicated verbally or by other means. For evidentiary purposes, it is strongly recommended that notice be issued in writing.

1.3 Notice period

In the event of dismissal, the law provides that an employee is entitled to a notice of a duration which varies depending on his seniority as follows:

  • Length of service of less than six months: no notice period applicable;
  • Length of service between six months and less than two years: one month;
  • Length of service of at least two years: two months.

For any dismissal, the employer may choose whether the employee works during the notice period.

In either case, employee is entitled to receive the same salary, including any benefits.

The statutory notice periods include: one month in the first year of service; two months between the second and ninth year of service; and three months thereafter.

The notice period may vary depending on the written individual or collective employment contract. however, the notice period may be reduced to less than one month only by collective employment contract and only for the first year of service. The notice period must be the same for both parties.

The parties may agree on a probationary period of up to three months with a notice period of seven days.

1.4 Involvement of works council

Works councils do not exist in Monaco. A staff representative (if established) must be properly informed prior to a collective redundancies.

Except for mass dismissals, there is no statutory requirement to involve a works council.

1.5 Involvement of a union

No involvement for dismissals.

No involvement.

1.6 Approval of state authorities necessary

Mandatory for employees with legal protection because of their private life or their mandate.

This protection applies to staff representatives, union delegates, pregnant women, employees taking maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave or family support leave, members of the Labour Court, harassment referents.

The relevant Labour Authority has to be informed of projected collective redundancies prior to their dismissal, and grant prior approval.

Not necessary.

1.7 Collective redundancies

The implementation of collective redundancies is mainly regulated by law and the National Collective Bargaining Agreement, which imposes some procedural steps prior to implementing any such decision.

Three main issues must be considered regarding the preparation and implementation of a collective social plan:

  • Drafting an information document containing all essential elements

regarding the decision to restructure, its motivation, its implementation and the measures taken by the employer to minimise any adverse impacts on employees;

  • Circulating the information to staff representatives, discussing it with them and collecting their comments and choices about measures taken to implement the restructuring (i.e., the measures adopted to minimise the number of dismissals); and
  • Implementing the restructuring plan, by obtaining the required authorisations as the case may be, notifying employees of their terminations and paying termination indemnities.

The statutory provisions regarding mass dismissals apply where the employer – within a time period of 30 days – gives notice for reasons unrelated to any particular employee and affecting:

  1. at least ten employees at a business normally employing between 21 and 99 employees; or
  2. at least 10% of the employees at a business normally employing between 100 and 300 employees; or
  3. at least 30 employees at a business normally employing more than 300 employees.

The provisions governing mass redundancies do not apply in the event that business operations have ceased by court order or mass redundancies have occurred due to bankruptcy or a composition agreement with assignment of assets.

Prior to giving notice, the employer must consult the employee’s representative body or the employees, and at the same time notify the cantonal labour office in writing of the planned mass dismissal. these bodies have consultation rights only. Neither the employees nor the cantonal office are able to block a mass dismissal.

The employer is obliged to enter into social-plan negotiations if it (i) usually employs at least 250 employees and (ii) intends to terminate at least 30 employees within 30 days for reasons that are unrelated to an individual employee. Notices given over a longer period but based on the same operational decision must be added together.

The employer negotiates:

  • with the employee associations that are party to the collective employment contract if a party to this collective employment contract;
  • with the organisation representing the employees; or
  • directly with the employees if they have no representive organisation.

An arbitral tribunal will establish a social plan by way of an arbitral award if such negotiations fail.

1.8 Summary dismissals

Dismissal without notice is only possible in case of gross misconduct. In such a case, the employee receives no dismissal indemnity or notice period indemnity. The employee is still entitled to unemployment insurance benefits.

Both the employer and employee may terminate the employment relationship with immediate effect at any time for cause.

The requirements for termination for cause are high. There must be a severe breach of contract and – except for very serious cases (e.g. theft) – a clear warning must be given, which is then ignored by the other party. The notice must be issued within two to three days of the party becoming aware of the serious breach allowing termination for cause.

1.9 Consequences if requirements are not met

Should the employer dismiss an employee on personal or economic grounds without a valid cause, the employer would have to pay a dismissal indemnity.

In addition, the employee could claim damages for injuries suffered due to his / her wrongful dismissal.

In case of ordinary dismissals:

  • in case of unfair dismissal, the notice remains valid, but the party abusively giving notice may be obliged by the court to pay an indemnity of up to six months' salary.
  • The employer must not terminate the employment relationship during certain protected periods, as mentioned above under ‘Reasons for dismissal’. any notice given during these periods is void. If any of these circumstances apply after notice has been given, the notice remains valid but is extended accordingly.

Where a termination is made with immediate effect for cause but the requirements are not met (e.g. no serious breach, no or insufficient warning, late notice), the employee is entitled to the salary for the period until his contract expires or would have been ordinarily terminated. In addition, the court may require the employer to pay an indemnity of up to six months' salary.

In a case of mass dismissal, a notice of termination given without or before completion of the consultation process is deemed abusive. The notice of termination remains valid, but the employer is obliged to pay an indemnity to the employee of a sum fixed by the court not exceeding two months' salary.

1.10 Severance pay

Dismissal indemnity is payable unless the dismissal is for gross misconduct. The amount payable is mainly set by the collective bargaining agreement, but must not be less than the French legal dismissal indemnity (since 27 September 2017: 25% of the monthly gross salary until ten years of seniority and one third of the monthly salary as of the tenth‘s year). A higher indemnity is payable in case of dismissal without a stated motive. Indemnity is also payable for unused accrued paid holidays and for the notice period if the employer chooses to release the employee from performing it.

Employees are entitled to a severance payment if they are over 50 years old and with 20 or more years service. If there is no contractual severance payment, an amount equal to between two and eight months' salary will be awarded by the court. However, the employer’s contributions to the employee’s pension fund over the entire period of service may be deducted from the severance payment. As a result, mandatory severance payments are rare.

1.11 Non-competition clauses

Non-competition clauses are enforceable in Monaco provided they are appropriately restricted.

A non-competition clause must comply with five cumulative conditions:

  • it must be essential to protect the employer’s legitimate interests;
  • it must be limited to a specific time period;
  • it must be limited to a geographical area;
  • it must take the characteristics of the employee’s job into account; and
  • most importantly, it must provide for a financial counterpart.

Independent consideration is required for a non-competition clause.

The parties to an employment agreement may agree on post-termination restrictive covenants prohibiting competitive activity by the former employee. Such covenants are subject to a number of requirements and restrictions, including the following:

  1. A post-termination restriction on competition is only valid and enforceable if it is limited to a specific activity, a reasonable geographic area, and a reasonable period of time (i.e. maximum three years, unless there are exceptional reasons for a longer period).
  2. In addition, a non-competition restriction is only enforceable in those cases where the employee has had access to the employer’s customers or to manufacturing or business secrets during the term of the employment, and the use of such knowledge could significantly damage the employer.
  3. The non-competition restriction has to be agreed upon in writing.
  4. The restriction does not apply if the employer terminates the employment relationship without the employee having given him good cause to do so, or if the employee terminates it for good cause attributable to the employer.
  5. Where an employee infringing the restriction is liable to pay a contractual penalty, the employee may exempt himself from the prohibition by paying the penalty. however, he remains liable in damages for any further damage. Only where expressly agreed upon in writing, the employer may insist that the employee continue to observe the non-competition restriction in addition to seeking the agreed contractual penalty and any further damages.

1.12 Miscellaneous

Not applicable.

Not applicable.

2. Dismissal of managing directors

In general, the managing director is an employee of the company. In certain situations, and subject to the prohibition of circumventing employment law, the managing director might be a self-employed person who has entered into a service agreement with the company.

The following comments relate to situations whereby the managing director is an employee of the company.

2.1 Reasons for dismissal

A company may generally revoke the appointment of the managing director without cause, unless stated otherwise in the by-laws of the company or the resolution of appointment. This is particularly the case for limited companies (‘SA‘). However, a just cause is legally required in limited liability companies (‘SARL’) when revoking a managing director who is also a shareholder of the company. In any event, revocation must follow mandatory steps to be declared valid.

Notice may be given without providing any reason (‘Kündigungsfreiheit’).

Both the employer and the managing director may end the employment relationship without providing reason or cause.

However, a dismissal must not be abusive (wrongful or unlawful dismissal). Subject to certain exceptions, such a notice is unlawful where issued in particular:

  • due to an inherent personal quality of the other party (skin colour, nationality, sexuality); or
  • because the other party exercises a constitutional right; or
  • solely in order to prevent claims under the employment relationship from accruing to the other party; or
  • because the other party asserts claims under the employment relationship in good faith; or
  • because the other party is performing military service or a non-voluntary legal obligation; or
  • in the context of mass redundancies by the employer if the consultation process is not observed.

In any of the above circumstances, the notice remains valid, but the party abusively giving notice may be obliged by the court to pay an indemnity of up to six months’ salary.

The employer may not terminate the employment relationship during the following periods, and notice given during these periods is void:

  • while the other party is performing Swiss compulsory military service, and during the four weeks preceding and following the service if the service lasts for more than 11 days; or
  • while the managing director, through no fault of his own, is (partially) prevented from working due to illness or accident, for up to 30 days in the first year of service, 90 days in the second to fifth years of service, or 180 days thereafter; or
  • during the pregnancy of a managing director, and for 16 weeks following the birth.

2.2 Form

A resolution is taken by the shareholders and / or board of directors, depending on the form of the company and the internal organisation of the management. The managing director must be given the opportunity to explain himself or herself and the revocation must not be made vexatiously.

There is no specific requirement. Notice of termination may be given verbally or by other means. For evidentiary purposes, it is strongly recommended that any notice be issued in writing.

The provisions set forth by Swiss Company Law must also be taken into account for managing directors. For example, in a company limited by shares (‘Aktiengesellschaft’), the appointment and dismissal of persons entrusted with managing and representing the company is part of the non-transferable and inalienable duties of the board of directors.

2.3 Notice period

No notice period, except where one is provided by the by-laws of the company or in the resolution of appointment of the managing director.

The statutory notice periods include: one month in the first year of service; two months between the second and ninth year of service; and three months thereafter.

The notice period may vary depending on the written individual or collective employment contract. often employers and managing directors agree on longer notice periods in their employment agreements than the default rule foreseen by law. The notice period must be the same for both parties. 

The parties may agree on a probationary period of up to three months with a notice period of seven days.

2.4 Involvement of works council

No involvement.

Except for mass dismissals, there is no statutory requirement to involve a works council.

2.5 Involvement of a union

No involvement.

No involvement.

2.6 Approval of state authorities necessary

For limited liability companies (‘SARL’), appointment of a new director is subject to government approval. For all companies, the change of director must be registered in the Monaco Companies Register.

Not necessary.

2.7 Collective redundancies

Not applicable.

The statutory provisions regarding mass dismissals apply where the employer – within a time period of 30 days – gives notice for reasons unrelated to an individual employee (including a managing director) and affecting (numbers include employees and managing directors):

  1. at least ten employees at a business normally employing between 21 and 99 employees; or
  2. at least 10% of the employees at a business normally employing between 100 and 300 employees; or
  3. at least 30 employees at a business normally employing more than 300 employees.

The provisions governing mass redundancies do not apply in the event business operations have ceased by court order or mass redundancies have occurred due to bankruptcy or a composition agreement with assignment of assets.

Prior to giving notice, the employer must consult the employee’s representative body or the employees, and at the same time notify the cantonal labour office in writing of the planned mass dismissal. These bodies have consultation rights only. Neither the employees nor the cantonal office can block a mass dismissal.

The employer is obliged to enter into social-plan negotiations if it (i) usually employs at least 250 employees (including managing directors) and (ii) intends to terminate at least 30 employees (including managing directors) within 30 days for reasons that are unrelated to an individual employee. Notices given over a longer period but based on the same operational decision must be added together.

The employer negotiates:

  • with the employee associations that are party to the collective employment contract if a party to this collective employment contract;
  • with the organisation representing the employees; or
  • directly with the employees if they have no representative organisation.

An arbitral tribunal will establish a social plan by way of an arbitral award if such negotiations fail.

2.8 Summary dismissals

Not applicable.

Both the employer and the managing director may terminate the employment relationship with immediate effect at any time for cause.

The requirements for a termination for cause are high. There must be a severe breach of contract and – except for very serious cases (e.g. theft) – a clear warning must be given, which is then ignored by the other party. The notice must be issued within two to three days of the party becoming aware of the serious breach allowing termination for cause.

2.9 Consequences if requirements are not met

Damages may be claimed, mainly:

  • for the lack of a just cause, in the event that such reason is legally required to revoke a legal representative; or
  • if the revocation is notified under hurtful circumstances (e.g. is very sudden and unexpected, or is publicly announced before the director is informed), or if the managing director has not been granted a reasonable opportunity to make his / her point before the board’s / shareholders’ decision to revoke him / her (absence of due process). However, the managing director cannot be reinstated.

In case of ordinary dismissals:

  • in case of unfair dismissal, the notice remains valid, but the party abusively giving notice may be obliged by the court to pay an indemnity of up to six months salary.
  • The employer must not terminate the employment relationship during certain protected periods, as mentioned above under ‘Reasons for dismissal’. any notice given during these periods is void. If any of these circumstances apply after notice has been given, the notice remains valid but is extended accordingly.

Where a termination is made with immediate effect for cause but the requirements are not met (e.g. no serious breach, no or insufficient warning, late notice), the managing director is entitled to the salary for the period until his contract expires or could have been ordinarily terminated. In addition, the court may require the employer to pay an indemnity of up to six months salary.

In a case of mass dismissal, a notice of termination given without or before completion of the consultation process is deemed abusive. The notice of termination remains valid, but the employer is obliged to pay an indemnity to the managing director of a sum fixed by the court not exceeding two months salary.

2.10 Severance pay

Not applicable.

Managing directors are entitled to a severance payment if they are over 50 years old and with 20 or more years service. If there is no contractual severance payment, an amount equal to between two and eight months salary will be awarded by the court. However, the employer’s contributions to the managing director’s pension fund over the entire period of service may be deducted from the severance payment. As a result, mandatory severance payments are rare.

2.11 Non-competition clauses

Non competition clauses are only valid insofar as they specify a restricted application in time and space. They also have to include financial compensation in order to compensate the director for the loss of revenue they cause him or her. If the clause does not include those elements, it is null and void. In that case, the director may still be held liable for unfair competition towards the company if it is demonstrated that the director resorted to fraudulent practices intended to disturb the company’s activity such as denigrating it or employing key members of its staff.

The parties to an employment agreement may agree on post-termination restrictive covenants prohibiting competitive activity by the former managing director. Such covenants are subject to a number of requirements and restrictions, including the following.

  1. A post-termination restriction on competition is only valid and enforceable if it is limited to a specific activity, a reasonable geographic area, and a reasonable period of time (i.e. maximum three years, unless there are exceptional reasons for a longer period).
  2. In addition, a non-competition restriction is only enforceable in those cases where the managing director has had access to the employer’s customers or to manufacturing or business secrets during the term of the employment, and the use of such knowledge could significantly damage the employer.
  3. The non-competition restriction has to be agreed upon in writing.
  4. The restriction does not apply if the employer terminates the employment relationship without the managing director having given him any good cause to do so, or if the managing director terminates it for good cause attributable to the employer.
  5. Where a managing director infringing the restriction is liable to pay a contractual penalty, the managing director may exempt himself from the prohibition by paying the penalty. however, he remains liable for any further damage. Only where expressly agreed upon in writing, the employer may insist that the managing director continue to observe the non-competition restriction in addition to seeking the agreed contractual penalty and any further damages.

2.12 Miscellaneous

Not applicable.

Not applicable.