Labour Directorate

The Labour Directorate works to ensure clear rules in labour market policy, which includes employee protection, unemployment insurance, employment services and the free movement of persons.

The Labour Directorate’s key responsibilities at a glance

  • Working conditions 
  • Unemployment insurance 
  • Labour market supervision and combatting illegal employment 
  • Private employment agencies and temporary recruitment services 
  • Declaring collective employment agreements to be generally applicable
  • Matters relating to international labour law

The Labour Directorate works in close collaboration with its social partners and the cantons. The common objective of all the parties involved is to enable as many people of working age as possible to be engaged in gainful employment under healthy conditions, and to earn salaries that enable them to live a dignified life.

Favourable framework conditions

Protecting health is one of SECO’s core tasks. Competition and social developments constantly present companies with new challenges. Good framework and working conditions – such as statutory working time and rest periods – are there - fore particularly important. These also benefit the Swiss economy as healthy employees are more productive and less likely to miss work days.

Unemployment benefits

Unemployment is directly linked to the economic cycle. It is important to have effective instruments ready for the good times and the bad so as to be able to provide efficient support to those out of work. The Labour Directorate is responsible for unemployment insurance and public employment services. In cooperation with the cantonal offices and the regional employment centres, unemployment insurance offers unemployed persons an adequate compensatory income and helps jobseekers achieve quick and lasting reintegration into the labour market.

Successful social partnership

A well-functioning social partnership is the cornerstone of Switzerland’s successful model. The Directorate provides the necessary framework conditions. It promotes dialogue between the social partners and enables them to play an active role. In enabling collective employment agreements to be declared generally applicable, the state specifically protects social partnership agreements, thus helping to ensure social stability.

Free movement of persons and labour market supervision

Under the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP), Swiss and EU nationals have the right to choose their place of work. With the opening of the Swiss labour market, accompanying measures were set up to protect Swiss and foreign workers from abusive wage practices and working conditions. SECO’s observation report ensures a continuous analysis of the impact of the AFMP on the labour market. In addition to supervising the implementation of the accompanying measures, the Directorate also has the key task of combatting illegal employment.

Private employment agencies and temporary recruitment services

The Labour Directorate works together with the cantons to monitor the activities of private employment agencies and temporary recruitment services. These are regulated under the Federal Act on Employment Services and the Hiring of Services. As such, they require a licence so as to protect jobseekers and recruited workers. The Directorate verifies compliance with the legal requirements to ensure that workers hired through private employment agencies or temporary recruitment services are protected and that there is proper competition between companies.

Commitment to international labour law

The Directorate also promotes respect for workers’ rights at the international level. It maintains bilateral contacts with labour ministries, addresses questions relating to the economy and human rights, and supports the promotion of international labour standards. The Labour Directorate represents Switzerland in international bodies such as the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Last modification 20.01.2021

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