Why Switzerland’s hot right now for contractors

It’s not just its bi-lateral agreements with the EU that might make Britons behind the Brexit eight-ball a bit envious of Switzerland.

It’s also got an innovative, exciting and industrious working environment, writes Nick Broughton, on behalf of Swiss-based contracting and payroll specialists Sigma Management Services SA.

And for UK contractors, the four official languages-speaking country (including French but English is also widely-spoken) is much more ‘au fait’ with Britons contracting in its territory than almost all of the nations recently featured in ContractorUK’s Overseas Contracting guides. But firstly where, or in which sectors is demand currently hot?

The backdrop

Switzerland has a strong, stable economy and the country is consistently in need of skilled and experienced professionals across a range of sectors. As well as being a global financial services and banking hub, Switzerland also offers a wealth of opportunities for talented contractors in many growing sectors including engineering, pharmaceutical, bio-pharma and technology and bio-tech.

Where you’re wanted

One of Switzerland’s sectors currently popular with contractors is the life sciences sector. The chemical, biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors in Switzerland are growing steadily and are expected to remain strong for years to come.

With significant pharmaceutical plants being built and planned throughout the country, there is currently a high demand for qualified and skilled workers within engineering and construction.

At the moment there are many contractors from all over the UK, Ireland and further afield coming to help out on various projects. Contractors can be placed for 12, 18 and 24 months. These long-term, large scale projects provide the opportunity to work within some of the largest multinational corporations in the world.

A technology darling in its own right

Switzerland is known for its innovation and strong banking sector so it’s no surprise that it has evolved into a leading global hub for dynamic and innovative fintech start-ups. Fintech and insurtech are among the fastest growing industries in Switzerland and these new industries require professionals with unique skills in financial services, digital currency and cybersecurity.

In 2017, the Swiss Federal Council decided on new fintech regulations. These regulations reduced barriers to entry for fintech firms, so we can expect to see even more foreign fintech businesses entering Switzerland in the coming years.

What’s not to like?

Outside of work, another pull factor of Switzerland is that it’s consistently ranked among one of the best places in the world to live. Robust infrastructure, reliable public transport systems and high-earning potential are all factors that draw contractors to work in Switzerland.

With its central European location, Switzerland also provides lots of opportunities to travel to neighbouring countries such as Italy, France, Germany and Austria. When not working, Switzerland offers many cultural, leisure and sporting activities. Changing seasons means that there are plenty of opportunities to get out and pursue outdoor sports such as to hiking or biking in the hot summers, and skiing or snowboarding in the snowy winters.

However, you cannot just fly over to Switzerland and expect to start work immediately!

Know before you go

Many factors need to be considered beforehand, and chief among them are work permits; how are you going to be employed and healthcare insurance.

Work permits

All EU nationals can apply for a work permit without too much hassle. Once you have an employment contract and a place to live, you can apply for a permit that will be valid for the duration of your project. Typically, 90-day declarations can be applied for 24 hours prior to a contractor’s start date, or the Friday before their first Monday at work, allowing a worker to get started on the project. Once the worker has secured a place to live, they may visit their local commune and upgrade their declaration to a full work permit if the 90 days is not long enough.

Social security contributions

Switzerland is known for its low tax rates and has a higher retention rate compared to other European countries. Social security contributions depend on the worker’s salary level and the location of their employer among other things (marital status, age, number of dependants). The payments are mandatory and cover all the typical things that you would expect, including accident insurances and family allowances, for example. Social security is mandatory, and there are two sides to the social costs – employer costs (paid by the employer) and employee costs (paid by the employee). Those who are working in Switzerland on a contract basis often have to pay both sides.

Healthcare

Healthcare insurance is compulsory in Switzerland. Anyone who is living or working in Switzerland must have health insurance. While health insurance can be expensive, it does provide access to one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

Final recommendation

Getting a lucrative contract or role in Switzerland is definitely a great plan, however, we recommend you engage with a specialist company that can help you with all the administrative hurdles. Regardless of how much experience you have working globally, Switzerland has very different rules and regulations when it comes to contracting so it’s important to use a local payroll company. Make sure the outfit you choose has many years’ experience placing professionals like you. You want peace of mind and 100% compliance so that you can fully enjoy your time in Switzerland. Good luck!

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