Essential points regarding work certificates in Swiss employment law

Obligation to issue a work certificate

Employers are obligated to issue a work certificate. Employees can request a work certificate at any time. The certificate is issued as an interim certificate during the employment and as a final certificate at the end of the employment.

Delivery timeframe

The law does not specify a timeframe for issuing a work certificate. In practice, when an employee expressly requests it, the certificate is usually prepared within a few days. For the final work certificate, which is issued at the end of the employment, it must be delivered within a reasonable time. Employees can request a work certificate from the employer or through legal action, if the employer refuses, for ten years following the end of the employment.

Necessary information

Employers must include the following information:

  • Identities of the employee and employer
  • Start and end dates of employment
  • Detailed list of significant roles and main activities of the employee during the employment and their duration
  • Conclusive assessment of the employee’s performance (quality and quantity of work)
  • Assessment of behavior
  • Legal signature of the employer including the date of issuance.


The work certificate must be written. Its wording should be clear and comprehensible.

Final or interim certificate

Every employee is entitled to a complete work certificate. This means that the employer cannot omit the assessment of behavior or the quality of work.
Employees can also request an interim certificate at any time. Situations that may justify such a request include a change in supervisory personnel, transfer to another business unit, restructuring affecting the employee, application for admission to a training institution, serious intention to change jobs, and the imminent end of the contract. The interim certificate is written in the present tense, even if the end of employment is foreseeable at the time of its writing (e.g., during the notice period). There is no right to a periodic certificate. The content of the interim certificate is the same as that of the final work certificate.

Truthful and benevolent

The work certificate must contain only truthful statements expressed in a benevolent manner. In the case of negative facts, this condition is not always easy to meet in practice because the employer is required to tell the truth. Negative facts can and should therefore be mentioned in the certificate, but only if they are relevant to the overall assessment of the employee. Isolated incidents or trivial facts should not be included in the work certificate. Regularly, the issue of prolonged absences due to long-term illness resurfaces. According to the Federal Court, a negative fact can and should be mentioned if it is relevant to the overall assessment. Certain situations are considered an objective reason to end employment, for example, when an illness has had significant effects on performance or behavior, or when doubts have been expressed about a person’s ability to perform their functions. The work certificate must mention prolonged work interruptions due to illness when they are significant in proportion to the total duration of the contract and when failing to mention them could mislead regarding the professional experience acquired. Nevertheless, it is necessary to consider the circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

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