The employment certificate is an integral part of the relationship between a company and its employees. It should thus be delivered to each one of them once their employment relationship has been terminated. It is also the company's duty to issue it at the employee's request. This document must in any case be produced in writing and printed on a sheet of paper with a clear mention of the company's name and location. Moreover, it should contain the following information:
The employment certificate should reflect the employee's actual performance and behavior, yet it may contain no pejorative term. The causes of the termination should not be mentioned in the employment certificate, but rather in a termination letter that exposes the reasons for the end of the employment relationship. Obviously, these motives should also be discussed in the course of the dismissal interview (guidelines and sample departure forms).
It should also be noted that employers bear a responsibility towards departing workers and their future employers. Indeed, issuing a very good employment certificate that does not correspond to reality – and which could hide a case of embezzlement, for example – can be regarded as an unlawful act and have consequences for the employer in terms of legal liability. In Swiss Law, this would typically be the case when an employee who has embezzled his company is hired on the basis of a certificate that does not mention the fraud. If his new employer also falls victim to the same disloyal practices, the company which has issued the misleading employment certificate will be held responsible. A particular attention should thus be paid to the writing of reliable employment certificates.
Finally, let us mention the fact that former employees who have already left the company, frequently ask for a copy of their employment certificate. It is thus absolutely necessary to keep a high quality copy (in paper or digital format) of all the certificates that are issued by the company, in order to be able to meet such requests.
Generally speaking, an employment certificate should provide the following information:
I. The employee's personal data
II. A description of the employee's curriculum within the company
III. An assessment of the employee's performance
IV. An assessment of the employee’s behavior
V. The employer's data
Here is the example of an employment certificate (sample) issued by a multinational company for one of its a Regional Managers. As you can see, the writing of such certificates can be challenging. We therefore encourage you to use the following employment certificate writing guidelines (sample employee evaluation form) which allows assessing both the employee's quality of work and behavior.
Such employee assessment forms may be filled in by several assessors. In practice, these assessment criteria should be adapted to each job's specifications (e.g. by using the job description (or "job profile"). The listing provided in our sample employee evaluation form is non-exhaustive.
INDEPENDENT WORKERS / ENTREPRENEURS
If you are an independent worker or if you have been running your own business for some time, it is important to describe the activities you have been exercising in your CV (writing guidelines), not forgetting to mention your achievements. This is necessary, as you may not issue an employment certificate to yourself. You may however join attestation documents such as marketing presentations, website urls or any other document that attests to your achievements.
In Switzerland, the obligation to issue a certificate of employment at any given time at the employee’s request is stipulated in Article 330a of the Code of Obligations. Moreover, at the express request of the employee, the certificate will only cover the nature and duration of the employment relationship.
For further legal information on the termination of an individual employment contract under Swiss Law, please refer to the article "The Mutual Obligations Between Employers and Employees at the End of the Employment Relationship".