On 18 June 2023, voters in the cities of Winterthur and Zurich approved the introduction of a minimum wage. Provided that the initiatives can actually be implemented, a minimum wage will in principle be applicable in both cities in the future. In Winterthur this is to be at least CHF 23 per hour and in Zurich at least CHF 23.90 per hour. Extrapolated to a full-time workload, this would correspond to around CHF 4,100 to CHF 4,300 per month. In the city of Zurich in particular, however, it is currently still open whether this minimum wage will actually enter into force as planned.

At national level, there is no statutory minimum wage in Switzerland. A corresponding federal popular initiative, which sought to establish a minimum monthly wage of CHF 4,000, was rejected by the people in 2014. However, regulations on minimum wages for specific industries exist in individual collective labor agreements (CLA) and standard labor agreements (NAV). In addition to minimum wages partially regulated in CLAs or NAVs, individual cantons have also introduced minimum wages at the cantonal level in recent years (the cantons of Neuchâtel, Jura, Ticino, Geneva and Basel-Stadt did so).

Switzerland does not have a generally applicable minimum wage

On 10 November 2020, popular initiatives were submitted in the city of Zurich and also in the cities of Winterthur and Kloten to regulate a minimum wage. In Kloten, voters rejected the initiative in the fall of 2021. However, the situation is different in the cities of Zurich and Winterthur, where voters approved the initiative's proposal to introduce a minimum wage on 18 June 2023.

According to the approved initiatives, a minimum wage of CHF 23 per hour is to apply in principle in the city of Winterthur in the future. In the city of Zurich, the minimum wage shall in principle be CHF 23.90 per hour in the future. However, the counter-proposal of the City Council adopted in the city of Zurich also provides for exceptions: In particular, the minimum wage shall not apply to apprentices, interns and trainees, as well as to employees younger than 25 without initial training.

Entry into force of the minimum wages is planned for the beginning of 2024

The plan is for the minimum wages to come into force at the beginning of 2024 following implementation of the adopted proposals. However, it remains to be seen whether this will actually happen.

It remains to be seen whether the minimum wages will really enter into force in the near future

At least in the city of Zurich, the trade association had already filed an appeal against the municipal minimum wage before the vote took place. This is because it has not yet been legally clarified whether a municipal minimum wage is legally permissible at all. In earlier decisions, the Federal Supreme Court had considered cantonal minimum wages to be permissible as long as they pursued social policy objectives. With regard to municipal minimum wages, however, the Federal Supreme Court has never had to decide this question. It is true that the initiative committee commissioned legal opinions on this question in advance, with both opinions coming to the conclusion that minimum wages at the municipal level are permissible. However, as long as the proceedings against the adopted initiative is pending, the actual introduction of the minimum wage – at least in the city of Zurich – is likely to take some time.

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