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Secondment - What are the employer’s obligations? HR questions #2

Secondment - What are the employer’s obligations? HR questions #2

After an intro to the main conditions and legal bases of pluriactivity in Switzerland, we now focus on Roxane Zappella's presentation during the conference at CAGI about the specificities & regulation of secondment. We will see that they differ between a secondment in the EU and EFTA and outside the European Union.


What is secondment?

A secondment means that an employer temporarily sends an employee to work in another country. During a secondment of an employee to the EU and EFTA zones, we should be able to rely on the two essential rules of coordination which are taken into account (cf. article on pluriactivity): the uniqueness of the applicable legislation and the workplace affiliation.

When applying the principle of affiliation to the workplace, if I am used to working in Switzerland and my employer sends me to work for two years in France, I would theoretically be affiliated in France. However, the idea is that a person who is subject to a social security system does not necessarily want; because they are temporarily sent to work abroad; to have "holes" contributions in their social security system.


The legal basis for secondment to the EU and EFTA

Special rules have therefore been implemented so that a detached worker does not have "hole" in their social security contributions because the affiliation to the workplace would require them to contribute in the country of their workplace. If an organization temporarily sends an employee abroad, even if they work abroad, they can remain affiliated for a certain period of time within the social security of their initial country. A secondment according to social security is an employee who is sent to work in another country while not being subject to social security in that country, but to their initial country’s.


To do this, they must meet these conditions:

  • The employer must have an activity in the initial country,
  • The employer must maintain a direct link with the detached worker during the secondment,
  • The employee must not be sent to replace another detached person,
  • The secondment must not exceed 2 years (24 months),
  • The employee must have been subject to Swiss social security (or the basic state) for at least one month before the secondment,
  • The employee must work when they are back.

The concept behind these rules is to avoid false secondments leading to smaller costs by having just a registered address; for example, in Switzerland.

What are the steps to take when you want to send an employee on secondment?

The organization must contact their AVS fund and fill in a secondment request form to certify that the employee is subject to Swiss social security (online forms are often found on the websites of compensation funds).

Note: If a company sends an employee, even a week, to attend a seminar in Paris or London, we are in a situation of secondment. The company must therefore take the necessary steps to request a secondment certificate. In case of control, accident or problem on site, the organization must immediately be able to prove who the person is and with which social security system they are covered. This is valid from the moment the employee works elsewhere, even for a single day.

Once the company has completed the secondment form, if all the conditions are met, the AVS fund will set up the A1 form, which attests to the employee's affiliation to social security (valid for the whole European Union) .

If after 4 months, the employer wishes to extend the secondment beyond two years, they have the possibility of doing so for a maximum of 6 years by contacting directly the OFAS (Federal Office of Social Insurance) which negotiates with the foreign competent authority.

However, in the event that the detached employee continues to work in the country of secondment at the end of their secondment, they will of course no longer be able to benefit from the status of detached worker, and will have to be affiliated with social security of the place where they work.

Source :


The legal basis of secondment outside the European Union

We have two categories of countries: those with which Switzerland has signed a bilateral social security convention and the others, third countries with which there is no convention.

When there is a signed convention between Switzerland and a country where an employer wishes to send an employee, the rules are similar to secondment in the European Union. The company must request a secondment certificate so the employee can work there while continuing to be subject to social security in Switzerland.

The difference with European Union rules is that in this case not all regimes have been planned. While in the European Union there is a "pack" with the whole social security; in a country with a social security convention, only the regimes included in it will be coordinated (often only AVS and disability insurance). Be careful, because if the employee is only subject to disability insurance ​​and AVS once, it is not excluded that with regard to illness, accident or all the other plans which are not coordinated by the convention, there might be a double subjugation (partial coordination). The advantage in Switzerland is that from the moment the person is compulsorily subject to the AVS, through a cascade of legislation, they will also be subject to the LAPG for maternity, unemployment insurance, occupational pension, family allowances, LAMAL and accident insurance. The detached employee will continue to benefit from full Swiss social security and will generally be exempt from AVS and disability insurance in the country where they are detached (not necessarily from other plans).

Example: The employee is sent to Canada which, by hypothetically, would have validated the fact that an accident insurance is compulsory for all persons who work there. This employee will be subject to accident insurance under Swiss law and accident insurance under Canadian law because this plan is not coordinated in a specific convention.


What happens when an employee is sent on secondment to a country with which Switzerland has no social security convention?

It means that there is therefore no coordination, the principle of affiliation to the workplace prevails.

Example: An employee is sent to Qatar, a country with which Switzerland has no signed social security convention. In principle, they will be domiciled in Qatar and their job will also be located there. So they will no longer be subject to Swiss social security and will depend on the Qatari system. In this case, it is no longer a secondment in terms of social security, but rather an expatriation.

Note: Switzerland offers the (optional) possibility for employees sent abroad in countries with no signed social security conventions to still be subject to AVS and the Swiss social security system.

If it is a question of continuing joint contributions, the employer must agree to do so (the company can already pay in the other country). If it is not, the solution is to see directly with the AVS fund for an optional insurance which will still allow to have a minimum cover.


Countries with which Switzerland has a bilateral convention:

A The convention between Switzerland and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia applies today to nationals of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BA)

B There is a specific social security convention between Switzerland and Quebec (QC)

C Subjugation only

Source :


For more information, you can consult the page of the Federal Social Insurance Office (FSIO) website on detached workers or the page of the federal compensation fund. After registering with the Confederation, you can also access the ALPS electronic platform which allows companies, independents, OFAS and compensation funds, to process expatriation requests (short or long-term secondment, extension and insurance continuation) and receive the A1 form as soon as possible.


This article was written by Synergix and does not engage the responsibility of speaker Roxane Zappella.