The easy guide to employee background checks in Switzerland


Aug 16, 2023

So you’ve finished the interview process and found a candidate who seems like a great fit. Even if you’re confident in your choice, it’s still crucial to run a background check when hiring a new employee in Switzerland. Background checks provide a number of benefits, including creating a safe workplace, ensuring you’re hiring the most qualified candidate for the job, and discouraging dishonesty on applications.

Global companies hiring employees in Switzerland must ensure they remain compliant with Swiss laws regarding background checks. Switzerland is known for having strict privacy laws, so it’s crucial to know what information you’re allowed to collect, the regulations around storing sensitive data, and other relevant information.

In this guide, we’ll explain how to run a legally compliant employee background check in Switzerland and answer frequently asked questions.

Are you legally required to run background checks on Swiss employees?

You are legally required to run background checks on Swiss employees depending on the role they’re applying for and the industry they work in. For example, lawyers and bank executives must submit to criminal and credit reference checks before they can be hired. 

However, you may not run an employment screening on a Swiss employee without their consent. It’s best to have them sign a document agreeing to the background check to protect yourself against legal action, as Swiss law deems the consent must be “explicit.” And even then, you can only check information that is specifically related to their suitability for the position.

Is it legal to run background checks on Swiss contractors?

Yes, but the same rules apply to Swiss contractors: You must have their explicit consent, and the background check can only include information directly related to whether they are suitable for the job.

What types of background checks do businesses commonly run on Swiss employees and contractors?

The scope of most background checks in Switzerland is extremely limited. Generally, you can check a person’s education history, call their references, and view their LinkedIn. Should the role call for it, you can also perform a credit check and a medical screening.

If you are hiring for a role that requires a criminal background check, there are three types:

  • Basic criminal record check: This is a quick, simple check to look for “unspent convictions,” which are criminal convictions that will remain on your criminal record or that you are still actively involved in rehabilitation for.
  • Standard criminal record check: This is a more detailed check required for specific job roles. It looks for unspent convictions but cautions against convictions that were expunged from the individual’s record.
  • Enhanced criminal record check: This type of criminal record check includes all the information gathered during the standard check as well as special information, such as whether the individual is legally barred from working with children.

Since Switzerland’s background screening rules are heavily based on the type of role the person is applying for, it’s typical for companies to hire a third-party background check company to ensure no laws are broken, and the screening is industry-specific.

What types of background checks are illegal in Switzerland?

The Swiss Federal Constitution prohibits discrimination based on age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other similar characteristics. It is unlawful to perform a background screening that infringes on a Swiss employee’s right to be protected from discrimination.

Furthermore, looking at an applicant’s social media or digging into any part of their personal life is ill-advised. While Swiss language surrounding background screenings may be frustratingly vague, a good rule of thumb is to err on the side of caution: Don’t run any screenings that seem like they’re unrelated to the role.

When should you conduct Swiss employee background checks?

Typically, Swiss employee background checks are conducted after an employment contract has been sent to an applicant. You’ll need the candidate’s explicit, written consent and you’ll want to make it clear that they must pass the background check before the final decision on hiring is made.

The easiest way to run a background check on a Swiss employee or contractor

Several companies can run background checks on employees in Switzerland, including Rippling and Aequivalent. The easiest by far is Rippling because background checks are directly integrated into the onboarding flow. Just enter basic hiring info like salary and start date, and Rippling will send the offer letter and new hire paperwork—and automatically run a legally compliant background check and e-verify the results. See Rippling today.

Background check mistakes to avoid in Switzerland

  • Not getting the employee’s written consent. Swiss law mandates that employees give explicit, written permission in order to conduct a background screening. Without it, you cannot legally perform an employment screening for that individual.
  • Assuming background checks in Switzerland are the same as in your nation. Particularly if you’re from the US or Canada, it’s crucial to be aware that even by European standards, Swiss laws are extremely strict about what you can and cannot include in a background screening. Employment screenings are minimal in scope, must be kept only to what is pertinent to the role, and may or may not require criminal background checks depending on the position and industry. It’s rugged terrain to navigate yourself without a lawyer or a third party well versed in Swiss laws–and as you can see, it’s easy to make a mistake.
  • Collecting too much data. Switzerland has strict privacy laws and places a strong emphasis on minimum data collection. If you’re not certain you need a piece of information for the new hire’s role, it's better to leave it out.
  • Skipping the background check. Although Switzerland does have strict employment screening laws, that doesn’t mean you should be intimidated and skip the background check altogether. Employment background checks are important for many reasons—especially ensuring a safe workplace.

Rippling makes it easy to run background checks in Switzerland.

Frequently asked questions about background checks in Switzerland

Are background checks legal in Switzerland?

Yes, you can conduct background checks on employees and independent contractors in Switzerland, provided you comply with Swiss laws.

Employers need to receive written consent from applicants to complete an employment background screening. They must also keep the check limited in scope; in other words, they can only collect information relevant to the role. Furthermore, job applicants cannot be discriminated against on any protected grounds, including sexual orientation, race, age, etc.

What language do you use for background checks in Switzerland?

Switzerland has four official languages: French, German, Italian, and Romansch. While there aren’t any specific guidelines around which languages can (or can’t) be used for background checks, it’s safe to assume any of those four is acceptable.

How do privacy laws affect background checks in Switzerland?

The right to privacy is part of the Swiss Federal Constitution. In fact, the Swiss have been fiercely guarding their right to privacy since before the internet was commonly used: The original Federal Act on Data Protection (FADP) was enacted in 1992, and the 26 Swiss cantons have their own additional privacy regulations. 

A revised version of the FADP will debut on September 1 of this year, and it places new restrictions on companies to better protect Swiss citizens’ personal data. Companies will now have to disclose how long their data will be stored, how it will be used, and why they’re collecting the information in the first place. Citizens will also be permitted to demand inaccuracies be corrected without needing to provide a reason first.

Do different industries in Switzerland require different background checks?

Yes. Some professionals, such as lawyers and bankers, must submit to criminal and credit checks. Other industries only consider education history, references, and LinkedIn to be relevant to the job. Swiss employment screenings are industry-specific, and you should only check into things directly pertinent to the new hire’s role.

How far back do criminal background checks go?

In Switzerland, criminal background checks can go as far back as seven years.

What are the benefits of running background checks in Switzerland?

There are numerous advantages to running background checks. These include:

  • Ensuring you hire the most qualified people. Checking a person’s professional qualifications and educational history will ensure you hire the best individual for the job, improving productivity at your company and making your business more competitive.
  • Deter dishonest applicants. Job seekers who know you’ll take the trouble to perform educational verification and other checks will be less likely to attempt occupational fraud—a serious offense that can harm your company’s reputation.
  • Prevent criminal behavior and safety issues. Maintaining workplace safety should be a top priority, and a criminal background check is an easy way to weed out applicants who might put your company at risk.

Onboard new hires and run background checks with Rippling

With Rippling's Talent Management System, you can seamlessly onboard new hires and set them up for success. Just enter basic hiring info like salary and start date, and Rippling does the rest—including running a legally compliant background check, and e-verifying the results.

Ready to hit the ground running with every new hire? See Rippling today.

Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: August 16, 2023

The Author

Carrie Stemke

A freelance writer and editor based in New York City, Carrie writes about HR trends and global workforce management and is the Rippling content team’s expert on hiring know-how in Western Europe.