On 27 September 2020, the people of Geneva approved the initiative "23 frs, c'est un minimum" introducing a minimum wage in the canton of Geneva. This minimum wage is applicable from 1 November 2020.

This Newsflash aims to present the main elements of the application of the new Geneva minimum wage.

1. Legal basis

The minimum wage is provided for by the Geneva cantonal Law on Inspection and Labour Relations (LIRT; RS/GE J 1 05) which has been adapted following the adoption of the initiative. The LIRT now contains a new chapter IVB devoted to the minimum wage (new articles 39I to 39N LIRT).

2. Scope of application

This minimum wage applies to all workers who usually carry out their work in the canton of Geneva, regardless of their branch of activity (with the exception of agriculture and floriculture).

The minimum wage thus applies in particular to all occupations within the domestic economy.

The minimum wage prevails over any lower wage provided for by an individual contract, a collective employment agreement or a standard employment contract and automatically applies to any employment contract upon its entry into force, without it being necessary to modify current contracts.

3. Exceptions

Nevertheless, the new legal provisions provide for a few rare exceptions where the minimum wage is not applicable. These exceptions are the following:

  • Apprenticeship contracts;
  • Employment contracts concluded with people under the age of 18;
  • Internship contracts which are part of a school or professional training provided for by cantonal or federal legislation.

According to the Conseil de surveillance du marché de l'emploi (CSME), which is competent to rule on disputes relating to the admission of an exception to the minimum wage, the internships which are exempt from the application of the minimum wage are the following:

  • Compulsory or optional internships followed as part of a certified training;
  • Orientation internships between two trainings;
  • Professional or social reintegration internships, insofar as they fall within the scope of a federal or cantonal legal provision.

These criteria are strict. Thus, any contracts, even short-term, which do not meet the above-mentioned criteria (e.g. summer jobs) are at present not exempt from minimum wage requirements.

4. Amount of the minimum wage

The minimum wage is set at CHF 23.– per hour. However, it shall be indexed every year starting January 1, 2021.

Therefore, the minimum wage will amount to CHF 23.– per hour for the months of November and December 2020, and CHF 23.14 per hour for the year 2021.

This represents a monthly wage of:

November and December 2020:

  • CHF 3'986.67/month for a 40-hour work week,
  • CHF 4'186.–/month for a 42-hour work week, and
  • CHF 4'485.–/month for a 45-hour work week.

Year 2021:

  • CHF 4'010.93/month for a 40-hour work week,
  • CHF 4'211.48/month for a 42-hour work week, and
  • CHF 4'512.30/month for a 45-hour work week.

The hourly wage may be reduced proportionally if the wage is paid 13 times a year (e.g. CHF 21.23 per hour in 2020).

However, the minimum wage does not include any vacation or public holiday pay, which must be paid in addition to the minimum wage.

As indicated, subject to the exceptions mentioned above, this legal minimum wage is applicable even if the current employment contracts provide for a lower wage.

5. Entry into force

This minimum wage has been in force since 1 November 2020.

6. Sanctions

The Cantonal Office for Work Inspection and Labour Relations (OCIRT) may pronounce sanctions in the event of non-compliance with the minimum wage, including administrative fines of up to CHF 30'000.–. This amount may be doubled in the event of a repeat offence.

In addition, the Cantonal Office for Work Inspection and Labour Relations (OCIRT) maintains a public list of employers who have been sanctioned.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.