WHAT IS FLEXWORK?
According to a recent white paper by Swissstaffing.ch, flexworkers in Switzerland can be defined as people that wish to work flexibly, either because: through flexibility they can find their way back to full employment again or because it represents a lifestyle philosophy. The report defines three factors for those looking for temporary work:
• Work time (part-time, flexible-time, work-on-demand, etc).
• Work place (telework, virtual work space, home-office, co- working spaces etc.).
• Work conditions (engaged consultant, project worker, temporary work or contractor/freelancer).
For companies working with flexworkers (typically a project worker, consultant or contractor) this presents advantages ranging from agility and flexibility to being able to find experienced and educated personnel in a world that is rapidly changing.
THE RISE OF FLEXWORK
To better understand why we are increasingly talking about flexwork, it would be helpful to look at its background. For example our company, Accurity GmbH was founded 20 years ago by professional contractors who are still involved in daily operations for the company today, so this is certainly not a new way of working – but as we are reading about more and more - it is a fast-growing trend in our society for a number of different reasons.
These reasons are predominantly led by a) new technologies and b) global markets. Both these factors work together to create a state of profound change globally, including from a Swiss perspective.
Under this new reality, the speed of change is creating great challenges both for those looking for work, and for companies looking for talented workers as they rapidly expand their products or services. Loss of jobs or closure of firms is now not uncommon given the speed of technological and social change.
The internet economy has created a mentality that focuses on immediate, low-cost consumption. As more and more workers enhance these values, they also embrace them as a part of their own working lives. As a result, the number of people who wish to work flexibly is steadily increasing.
The speed of introduction of new technologies is also leading to a shortage of educated and capable workers and we find ourselves in a transition period for Swiss based freelancers. Further education and life-long learning have become the norm for workers and a recent study by temptraining in 2019 showed that languages and job retaining skills (such as IT proficiency) were the most popular courses taken.
As with all new trends, questions arise from a social perspective, for flexible workers these include:
• are freelancers or contractors being adequately protected?
• will a steady decline in basic social contributions endanger the social security systems in Switzerland?
Freelancers or contractors that work with an employment services company such as Accurity GmbH define an additional work-form which allows for flexibility and independence combined with the security of a fixed employment position. This is known as “Personalverleih” in (German) Switzerland and is a distinct recognised form of working under Swiss Law. Companies acting as employment service providers - or Personalverleih companies such as Accurity GmbH have to be licensed by SECO – the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.
BUSINESS OUTLOOK AND THE COLLECTIVE LABOUR AGREEMENT
Some recent business trends from Switzerland show a mixed outlook going forward:
• The boom in temp-work seen in 2017 and early 2018 has not been repeated in 2019, and the numbers of people now occupying temporary roles in Switzerland is somewhat down on 2018.
• That said, GDP is expected to rise about 0.5% in 2019, and is forecast to rise 1.9% in 2020 – a year-on-year improvement. This growing economy, which could lead to an increased demand for workers – some of whom would be specialist or flexworkers.
• But despite the optimism there are still some risk factors in the near future including: trade wars, Brexit uncertainty, Euro economies/politics under strain, climate change polemics, and the increasing value of Swiss Franc as a safe haven currency.
• Regarding foreign workers in Switzerland, there is also a growing populist movement against border-crossing temp-workers. Some initiatives have also been taken to the ballot box – for instance in the Swiss Italian canton of Ticino – but so far these have been quashed.
• And the EU – their position is against temp leased working because it is regarded as being not generally well regulated in the EU (unlike in Switzerland where it is better regulated than permanent work).
As a result, the EU is attempting to control flexwork” rigidly by requiring that all labour-leasing companies guarantee that the temporary worker salary is the same as the "equivalent permanent salary" and that all benefits (e.g. mobile phones, training etc) are also equal. Switzerland however finds this system too complicated and wants to balance fairness against complexity. It is proposing a comparable ”minimum-wage” rule and fairness of timekeeping.
The same goes for gender equality, where Switzerland now requires all employers to keep a record (once every 4 years) comparing salaries of different genders for the same role but does not require equal pay.
Despite any negativity, the flexwork market is becoming more popular and respected in Switzerland. People increasingly want to work under the temp/flexible model and employers are also beginning to see it as a lower risk way of executing business.
Temporary working has certainly contributed to the recent drop in unemployment in Switzerland as shown by official records. Switzerland is a leader in managing flexwork fairly and providing the social framework via the GAV Arbeitsverleih (collective labour agreement).
The current GAV runs until the end of 2020. Temporary staffing organisations are trying to negotiate a new GAV to cope with the EU requirement that temp-worker salaries must be the same as the permanent roles for the same job. Their proposal is to honour minimum salaries and align them to a shortlist of relevant industry GAV’s (they have listed 200 from the total of 500 in Switzerland). If they manage to come to an agreement, then they may provide work tables for employment service companies such as Accurity GmbH from 2021.
• Flexwork is growing in popularity globally as well as in Switzerland despite a slight slow down in 2019.
• The trend is being led by technology, global markets and social change.
• There are regulations and GAV frameworks in Switzerland to support contractors with regards to ensuring social security.
• The EU is moving to change legislation aimed at equalising working conditions for flexworkers and full-time employees.
• Switzerland is aiming to introduce a less complex, more flexible, but equally fair legislation aligned to offering minimum salary payments for over 200 industry sectors.
• 2020 will be an exciting year for contractors and flexi-workers in Switzerland and Accurity GmbH will keep you up to speed on all relevant and important changes.