I have recently started receiving calls from recruiters in Switzerland, so I am not overly familiar with the recruitment processes and practices in that particular country and this might be absolutely normal, but I would rather check. I am familiar with recruitment practices in several nations, but Switzerland is not one of them.

One of the recruiters I have talked to has presented to me a contract opportunity with a Swiss company, and then said that, as an EU national, I am not allowed to be self-employed in Switzerland. Because of this, if the client company will be happy with my CV and interview and will decide to hire me, I would be put on the recruitment company's payroll. Effectively, I would be employed by the recruitment company, which will then take care of everything related to my salary, including tax deductions, contributions etc.

In hindsight now, I can remember a similar thing happened years ago with a Belgian recruitment company, which sounded even stranger to me back then because at least Belgium is fully a member of the EU.

My question is: is this normal? I might simply be ignorant of the recruitment procedures in Switzerland, but this seems a bit sketchy to me. Is this something that I should be concerned of?

  • 2
    Yeah, I'm not from Switzerland, but this looks sketchy to me too. swissinfo.ch/eng/self-employment/29236344 Apr 29, 2020 at 16:14
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    You've basically got a company that acts as either a recruitment agency or a consultancy depending on certain factors. Both are incredibly common and some companies do combine them. In Belgium this would be perfectly normal. I'm hesitant to post this as an answer though because I know Switzerland is a regulatory swamp in this regard. But it might be worth posting a new general question about the differences between these two aside from the Switzerland angle.
    – Lilienthal
    Apr 29, 2020 at 18:50
  • Np, and the answer resolves around "EU does not exist in this regard". Countries have different legal frameworks, and contractors ALSO have different legal frameworks (do you ahve employees? Are you a sole propetor or running an LLC?)
    – TomTom
    Apr 30, 2020 at 11:02
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    For Germany I can tell you, that "worker lending companies" (Leiharbeitsfirma) are pretty common. They accept contract work from companies, and "lend" you to do the work. While they keep an incredible amount of "your" money, you enjoy all German employee rights, including German (paid!) sick day rights, vacation days etc. People here don't like these companies though, because the keep such a huge part of "your" money and have incredibly long notice periods (up to half a year), which makes leaving them for better money conditions pretty hard. They pay you in times without contracts too, though.
    – Jessica
    Apr 30, 2020 at 11:52
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    @Jessica I agree with most of wat you said about Leiharbeitsfirmen, except leaving - I don´t think it´s that hard. We do not have slavery and if you do not want to continue to work anywhere, there are a lot of ways to make your boss regret keeping you. Most employers will readily agree to shorten the notice period and those who don´t will reconsider after 2 weeks of paid sick leave. Notice periods are actually more of a workers protection thing.
    – Daniel
    May 1, 2020 at 11:30

4 Answers 4


Depending on which kind of work you do, and where you do It, this might or might not be true. For example, if you are doing construction work, this might be regulated in Switzerland to an extent that it won't be feasible for you to fulfill all the necessary prerequisites.

I, for example, do IT-consulting from Germany, and I have Swiss customers. I don't need to register there at all. I just need to invoice them VAT exempt and the rest is their problem.

What is quite common though, with recruitment agencies working with self-employed staff is, that they sell you by the hour, at a higher price than what they pay you. Often they have a supply contract that forbids the client to hire you directly or mandates a large fee to be paid if they want to cut you out of the loop.

Those contracts can still be beneficial, especially if you did not have access to the client otherwise.

  • Are you actually resident in Switzerland for tax purposes?
    – Mawg
    May 1, 2020 at 7:40
  • @MawgsaysreinstateMonica No
    – Daniel
    May 1, 2020 at 11:14

This is the way that I, a non-Swiss s/w developer, have always worked in Switzerland.

If you are not on the payroll of the agency, they will recommend an umbrella company, but it is extremely unlikely that you can be self-employed in Switzerland, and less so that the end-client would accept it. Companies like to deal with companies, rather then individuals (among other things, it gives them someone to sue, if things go wrong).

I am not saying that you cannot work this way, just that it is not the norm. So, unless you are a guru with a niche skill, the agency, the client's HR & payroll, etc, are not going to go out of their way to accommodate you, when they can easilly find someone who will work "the normal way" as they see it. And, why should they?

This answer assumes that you will be resident for tax purposes (> 93 days in one year spent in Switzerland). If you wont be resident, but working remotely, that changes things, and I think that Kilsi's answer probably applies.

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    Yes, that is the normal mode for self-employed non-resident contractors in Switzerland. May 1, 2020 at 12:42
  • I can confirm this. I know of several large companies in Switzerland (I assume it is actually most of them) who stopped dealing directly with self employed IT specialists and now only hire such people via intermediary agents (i.e. recruting/staffing/jobhunting companies). This saves them the hassle to go through all the nitty gritty details with each and every one of their hired assets.
    – fgysin
    May 14, 2020 at 5:54

UK here. I can't speak for any other country but this is exactly how it worked in the contract roles I've been involved with. I can think of a few logistical reasons for this, namely that it makes things easier for the contractor company to switch your roles or for the client company to let a bad contractor go and put in another from the same company.

Given that your story involves international contracts, I'd also assume that there's a tax reason behind the current setup too


I am an American and therefore cannot speak for Switzerland, but I do know that here it is very ordinary for a contractor to be an employee of the company who is managing the contract. (In fact, I think that you should insist upon being an employee of that company.)

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