Equal Pay in the Public Sector: Switzerland’s Good Practice Booklet

16 Dec 2021

In 2016, Swiss Federal Councillor Minister Alain Berset launched the Charter for Equal Pay in the Public Sector. Strengthening the political commitment of the cantons, communes and state-associated organizations is a necessary step towards the achievement of the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.

This charter underlines the willingness of the signatories to implement equal pay within their own sphere of competence. It gives a strong signal to public and private employers, and aims to have as wide an impact as possible. In practice, the goal is to regularly monitor compliance by conducting equal pay analysis, both in the public administration and in companies mandated by the government.

In order to facilitate equal pay analysis, the Swiss Confederation has developed the webtool “Logib”. Originally intended for companies with 50 or more employees, the government launched in June 2021 a new module for SMEs. Only for Switzerland, this new module has increased the number of employers that can perform an equal pay analysis from 10,000 to approximately 200,000.

The possibility for smaller companies to conduct such analysis is a breakthrough for a variety of reasons. First, in Switzerland, like in many other countries, the great majority of companies, i.e. about 98%, are SMEs. Moreover, available statistics show that the unexplained part of the wage gap is particularly pronounced in these companies. In fact, in Switzerland women earn on average 19.0% less than their male colleagues (2018), with the unexplained part amounting to 45.4%. On average, this unexplained part rises to 60.9% in companies with less than 20 employees, compared with 27.4% in companies with 1000 employees or more (2019).

Although the charter is not legally binding, its implication for pay equality remains very concrete. Among the 17 cantons, 120 communes and 71 state-associated organizations that have signed the charter, many measures have been successfully implemented over the past years.

The canton of Jura, for example, is setting up a competence center to monitor equal pay relating to procurement and subsidies, and also requires companies with between 50 and 99 employees to carry out mandatory equal pay analysis. In the canton of Vaud, procurement and subsidy monitoring is the responsibility of a tripartite commission, the first of its kind in Switzerland.

The city of Lausanne has taken a different approach to promoting equal pay – it has developed a new salary system by reassessing all functions using an analytical job evaluation. The city of Winterthur, on the other hand, has adopted a diversity strategy that includes management training on the topic of equal pay. The commune of Riddes in Valais has revised its salary system following an analysis using Logib.

The new booklet ‘Towards equal pay. Implementing the Charter for equal pay: Examples from the cantons, communes and state-associated organisations’ provides an insight into the measures taken by 21 public entities and companies to implement the Charter. Highlighting good practices across Switzerland aims to encourage others to work towards the achievement of equal pay.

Link to the booklet (available in French, German and Italian)