Are you ready for a sabbatical? Ensuring you are properly insured.

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Are you ready for a sabbatical? Ensuring you are properly insured.

Feel like going on a world tour? Would you like to retreat to the mountains or just relax at home? More and more working people want a few months of unpaid leave – a sabbatical. Find out exactly how this works here.
Nowadays, the sabbatical is almost an integral part of a regular work-life balance. But what exactly is a sabbatical or unpaid leave? Unpaid leave is when an employee is released from work for a certain period of time with the employer's consent and does not receive a salary from the employer during this time. More and more employees want this time to escape from their stressful daily routines and to recover.

Is there a right to a sabbatical?

There is no legal right to extraordinary unpaid leave. But most employers know that a sabbatical is not only good for their employees. Because when employees recharge their batteries and return to their company full of energy, the company benefits, too. But, there is no guarantee that the employee will be granted several months' leave. It is therefore necessary for the employee to discuss the unpaid leave with the employer in good time and to record a corresponding agreement in writing. It is advisable to announce the desire to take a sabbatical one year in advance. This gives the employer sufficient time to examine the application in detail and find a suitable solution. The better the employee prepares for the meeting, the greater the chance that the sabbatical will work out.

In the event of an accident: Insurance by special agreement or health insurance

All companies have accident insurance for their employees in accordance with LAI. Accordingly, you are insured against accidents with your employer. Unless the respective employment contract provides otherwise, insurance coverage generally ends on the 31st day after the date on which entitlement to at least half the salary ceases. This means that you are no longer automatically insured against accidents in the event of unpaid leave of more than one month. 

If you choose to take out insurance by special agreement, you can extend the non-occupational accident insurance coverage by a total of six months, thereby enabling you to enjoy full insurance benefits pursuant to the provisions of the Swiss Federal Law on Accident Insurance (LAI). The application form for insurance by special agreement can be requested from the employer's insurer. If insurance by special agreement is not an option, the treatment costs must be covered by an accident insurance from your private health insurance company.

Payments into the pension fund during unpaid leave

Since no salary is paid during unpaid leave, the employer does not make any corresponding deductions unless otherwise agreed. The employer must notify their employees' pension fund in writing about the duration of unpaid leave. During this period, some pension funds only offer the previous insurance coverage for the risks of death and disability, but the savings component is no longer applicable. It is very important that you find out from your employer or pension fund how the insurance will continue. If you want to avoid gaps in contributions, you may be able to reach an agreement with the pension fund and continue the insurance during your leave – based on the last reported annual salary.

Compulsory insurance during your unpaid leave

You must also take care to avoid gaps in contributions for compulsory insurance. For the year in which your leave begins, check whether the minimum contribution requirement has already been met for OASI/$t$disability insurance/$t$loss of earnings compensation. The minimum contribution is CHF 482 per year (as of 2019). If you should continue your leave in the following year, the same criteria apply. Example: unpaid leave from September up to and including July. In this case, it must be clarified whether the minimum contribution obligation was fulfilled in both calendar years. If the unpaid leave lasts longer than one calendar year, you must register with the compensation office as a non-employed person.

Pension fund – your options

Discuss the insurance with your pension fund. The following alternatives are usually available:

Alternative 1: All benefits
a) All benefits (old age, death, disability) remain unchanged while the previous contribution-based financing (split into employer and employee contributions) is retained. 
b) The insurance (old age, death, disability) will continue unchanged: The insured person bears all costs.

Alternative 2 Continuation of risk insurance:
Disability and death benefits will continue unchanged. The savings process will be suspended for the duration of the leave.
a) The contribution-based financing (split into employer and employee contributions) remains unchanged.
b) All contributions are financed by the insured person.

Alternative 3: You waive the insurance coverage.
In this case, the employer will send the pension fund a notice that you are going on leave. You will only remain insured against disability and are entitled to death benefits for one month after the leave has begun. When you resume work, the employer will register you again.

Tip: Subject to the employer's approval, choose at least alternative 2.

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