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Giving notice of termination: When does it take effect?

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Both employees and companies often assume that the date of the postmark is definitive when it comes to the punctual receipt of a letter of termination and its validity. But they are wrong.

The decisive factor concerning the delivery of a letter of termination by the employer or the employee is not the postmark, but the time of its arrival at the recipient's address. Notice of termination only becomes effective when the other party has received it (SECO).

What matters is that the recipient has received the notice of termination by the last day of the month. If the letter is delayed by just a few days, the employment relationship continues for a whole month longer. 

Letter of termination by registered post 

Since the risk of delayed delivery of the letter lies with the terminating party, it is recommended that the letter be sent by registered post . Another option: You hand over the written notice of termination in person and get a receipt. In this case, you can wait until the last day of the month to give notice.  

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    An example from everyday working life

    A company gives Ms. Smith notice of termination in a registered letter on Monday, June 25. The notice period is two months. Ms. Smith refuses to take receipt of the registered letter from the postman on June 26, fearful that it might be a letter of termination. Nonetheless, despite her refusal to accept the letter, it is deemed to have been delivered – and the employment relationship ends on August 31.

Can I refuse to accept a registered letter of termination?

It's not that simple – in fact, quite the opposite applies: The express refusal to take receipt of a registered letter is deemed to be the equivalent of receipt. If a registered letter of termination cannot be delivered, it is deemed to have reached its destination if it is available at the post office for collection according to the postal service invitation. This is on condition that you are in a position to collect the letter. 

In essence:

In order for a termination notice to take effect, the addressee must take receipt of and become aware of it: It must, for example, be in their mailbox. The recipient must also be in a position to learn the contents of the letter in good faith.

What if I don't collect the registered letter?

Ignoring the collection notice and leaving the registered letter uncollected at the post office will not prevent the notice of termination from taking effect. The notice of termination is generally deemed to have been delivered on the first day of the collection period.  This is on condition that you are in a position to collect the letter. If you are on vacation, for example, the termination notice will only take effect on your return. And if you're sick and therefore unfit for work, the termination notice cannot take effect. In this case, you must prove your incapacity for work – ideally with a medical certificate. 

  • Teaser Image
    An example from everyday working life

    A company gives Mr. Jones notice of termination in a registered letter on Monday, June 25. The notice period is one month. Mr. Jones is not at home when the letter arrives on June 26. On that same day, he leaves for a week's vacation. When he returns home on July 3, he collects the registered letter from the post office. In this case, the letter is not deemed to have been delivered until July 3. Hence the employment relationship ends on August 31, and not on July 31.

Can I give notice of termination verbally?

Assuming that there is no statement to the contrary in your employment contract, collective labor agreement (GAV) or standard employment contract (NAV), you can also give verbal notice to your employer – and vice versa. However, since it is difficult to prove that you have given verbal notice, you are recommended to do so in the presence of a witness. Here too, the following applies: Notice of termination must be given by the last day of the month.

Don't forget: Registered letters are not delivered on Saturdays

In Switzerland, there is no delivery of registered letters on Saturdays. Let's say you want to terminate your employment relationship at the end of July 2019, and your notice period is one month, your termination notice must reach your employer by June 30, 2019 at the latest. However, as June 30, 2019 is a Sunday, your termination notice must have been delivered before this date. This means in practice: by registered letter on Friday, June 28, 2019, or verbally or in person on Sunday, June 30, 2019 at the latest.

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