CMS Expert Guide to employment termination law and legislation

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1. Dismissal of employees

1.1 Reasons for dismissal

The employer may dismiss an employee with notice for statutory reasons, including the winding-up or relocation (in case that the employee does  not agree with the relocation) of the employer or a part thereof, the redundancy of the employee, inability to perform work due to health reasons, unsatisfactory performance, or disciplinary breaches. An employer may terminate an employment relationship with immediate effect if the employee is lawfully sentenced for committing an intentional crime (a crime caused not by negligence), or has committed a serious breach of work discipline.

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

Notice must be given in writing (not by e-mail or fax), and signed by the employer’s representative in order to be valid.

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

The general notice period is one month. In case of dismissal where the reasons are the winding-up or relocation of the employer  or a part thereof, redundancy of the employee, or inability to perform work due to health problems, the notice period is two months if the employment has lasted  for at least one year, and three months if it has lasted for at least five years. Where the dismissal is due to reasons other than those stated above, the notice period is two months if the employment has lasted for at least one year. If the notice is given by the employee, the notice period is two months if the employment has lasted for at least one year. If the dismissal occurs during a probationary period, a written notification (not a formal notice) should be delivered to the other party normally at least three days before the intended termination date (it is not obligatory to meet such a three-day notification period).

The statutory maximum of a probationary period is three months, and a maximum of six months in the case of managing employees. The probation period, and its length thereof, are subject to agreement between the parties.

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

Dismissal of a member of the works council is invalid without the works council’s prior approval. Employee representatives are protected against dismissal for six months following the expiry of their term of office.

In cases of termination by notice and immediate termination, the employer is obliged to consult with employee representatives before dismissing the respective employee, otherwise such a dismissal is invalid. However, the employee representatives’ consent to the particular dismissal is not a precondition for its validity.

If there are no employee representatives then the obligation of the previous consultation does not apply.

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

1.5 Involvement of a union

Dismissal of a trade union member is invalid if the trade union’s prior approval has not been obtained. Trade union officers are protected against dismissal for six months following the expiry of their term of office.

No involvement.

1.6 Approval of state authorities necessary

Obligatory for disabled employees.

Not necessary.

1.7 Collective redundancies

A collective redundancy occurs when the employer dismisses more than ten employees within 30 days, if the employer employs fewer than 100 but more than 20 employees. If it employs at least 100 but fewer than 300 employees, termination of at least 10% of the workforce is considered a collective redundancy. If the employer employs at least 300 employees, then termination of 30 employees is considered a collective redundancy. At least one month prior to commencement of collective redundancies, the employer must negotiate measures to avoid or limit collective redundancies, and measures designed to mitigate the unfavorable consequences of collective redundancies with employee representatives. If there are no employee representatives, the employer must negotiate directly with the employees.

The employer must provide employee representatives, or employees directly, with all the information necessary to facilitate these negotiations in writing. A transcript of the written information must also be provided to the respective Office of Labour, Social Affairs and the Family. Following the negotiations, the Office of Labour, Social Affairs and the Family, as well as the employee representatives, or directly employees, must be provided with written information on the results of the negotiations.

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

Immediate termination of employment by the employer is possible only for a serious breach of work discipline by the employee or for a lawful conviction of the employee for an intentional crime.

The employer may immediately (with effect upon delivery to the employee) terminate the employment only within two months of learning the reason for immediate termination, but not later than one year from the occurrence of the respective reason.

The immediate termination must be done in writing and delivered to the employee, with the merits of the reason for immediate termination being specified in such a way that prevents confusion with any other reason for termination.

The employer may not immediately terminate the employment with a pregnant employee, an employee on maternity or parental leave, a lone employee taking care of a child younger than three years of age or with an employee taking care of a close person who is severely disabled. However, if there is a reason for immediate termination, the employment of the aforesaid employees (except for the employees on maternal or parental leave) may be terminated by notice for that reason.

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

Not applicable.

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

Severance pay must only be paid if the employment has been terminated  by notice of the employer or by agreement between the employer and  the employee for the reasons of winding-up or relocation of the employer or a part thereof, the redundancy of the employee, the employee’s long-term medical inability to perform work, or the inability to perform work due to accident at work, occupational disease or its threat or due to reaching the maximum exposure at work set by the public health authority.

In case that the employee is dismissed for the reasons of winding-up or relocation of the employer or a part thereof, the redundancy of the employee or the employee’s long-term medical inability to perform work, the employee is entitled to severance pay equal to the average monthly earnings of the employee if the employment lasted at least two years, two times the average monthly earnings if the employment lasted between five and ten years, three times the average monthly earnings if the employment lasted between ten and 20 years and four times the average monthly earnings if the employment lasted at least 20 years.

If the employment is terminated by agreement for the same reasons as stated in the previous paragraph, the employee is entitled to severance pay equal to the average monthly earnings of the employee if the employment lasted less than two years, two times the average monthly earnings if the employment lasted between two and five years, three times the average monthly earnings if the employment lasted between five and ten years, four times the average monthly earnings if the employment lasted between ten and 20 years and five times the average monthly earnings if the employment lasted at least 20 years.

In case that the employee is dismissed or the employment is terminated by agreement for the reason of the employee’s inability to perform work due to an accident at work, occupational disease or its threat or due to reaching the maximum exposure at work set by the public health authority, the employee is entitled to a severance pay of at least ten times the average monthly earning of the employee, unless the accident at work was caused by the employee’s breach of health and safety rules or took place while he / she was under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or psychotropic substances.

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

The employer may agree with the employee in the employment contract that following termination of the employment the employee will not perform a gainful activity competitive to the activity of the employer for a certain period of time, but no longer than one year. Conclusion of such non- competition clause is possible only if during the employment the employee is able to gain information or knowledge which is not commonly accessible and its use could cause substantial harm to the employer.

The employer is obliged to compensate the employee for complying with the non-competition clause by paying them at least 50 % of the employee’s average monthly earnings for each month of compliance with the obligation of the non-competition clause. The employer may only withdraw from a non-competition clause during the employment relationship.

The employee may terminate the non-competition clause if the employer fails to provide them with the above stated compensation for their compliance with the non-competition clause within 15 days of the compensation becoming due.

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

An employer cannot dismiss an employee within a protected period, i.e. within a period during which the employee is acknowledged to be temporarily incapable of work (during sick leave due to a disease or  an accident, during pregnancy, maternity or parental leave or, for a lone parent taking care of a child younger than three years of age, during extraordinary military service, whilst having been released to perform a public function, or if the employee is medically acknowledged to be temporarily unable to perform night shifts).

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 dismiss its managing director (as a statutory body or a member of a statutory body of an entity, i.e. not as an employee) without cause.

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 valid shareholder resolution is required for revocation of the appointment of the managing director and for termination of any agreement setting out the terms of appointment. The managing director is to be provided with a copy of the resolution, or information regarding the dismissal.

The company has only to inform the managing director that the general meeting of shareholders has decided for the dismissal.

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

Dismissal is possible without notice, and will be valid from the date of adoption of the shareholders’ resolution.

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

Not necessary.

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

If no shareholders’ resolution has been adopted then the revocation of appointment will be invalid.

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

No statutory severance payment; severance pay is subject to negotiation.

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

Under Slovak law, a managing director is bound by a non-competition clause during the performance of his / her function. A post-contractual non-competition clause may be considered invalid if the contractual clause refers to the time after dismissal from the function, in which case the court may find it invalid.

Such clauses are common in practice, and provide the managing director with compensation. It is less likely that a contractual party will sue the other party before the court on the basis of such a clause being invalid.

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.