As a rule, Jewish schoolchildren, students, apprentices and working people nowadays meet with greater understanding than in the past. Requests in connection with religious practice should be submitted actively and well in advance.
There is more openness today in the working world and particularly in educational institutions towards differing cultural and religious needs among employees and students. Numerous organisations have drawn up regulations for such needs. Others make ad-hoc and flexible decisions when faced with associated requests.
In the working world
Swiss labour law does not provide for any obligation on the part of an employer to meet employees’ requirements regarding their religious practice. There is thus no statutory right to days off on religious holidays or to kosher food in a company canteen. Nowadays, however, many companies have their own guidelines and principles that take into account a variety of needs stemming from the religion, language, origin, etc. of their employees. Workers are often allowed to take time off for religious holidays, either as holidays or as hours to be compensated. As a simple guideline, any such requests should be submitted to management transparently and well in advance, so that viable solutions for all those concerned can be found.
In the world of education
State schools and other public education institutions usually have regulations dealing with pupils or students from different religious backgrounds, and efforts are made so that religious needs can be fulfilled to an appropriate extent. Rules covering absence and the associated procedures are generally defined by the cantonal education authorities. Such rules usually provide for a number of days of absence (to be taken for understandable reasons), sometimes called joker days. Moreover, certain institutions take the high holidays of several religious communities into consideration when planning exams. The observance of holidays and days off is also protected by Swiss federal supreme court rulings. In a decision of 1 April 2008 (BGE 134 I 114), the federal supreme court obliged a school to find alternative solutions for exams scheduled for a Saturday or a religious holiday. In this context, it is important that regulations and other information are obtained at an early stage and that any requests are submitted well in advance and in accordance with defined procedures.
In the private education sector, there are no generally applicable regulations regarding dispensation. Some institutions explicitly take such needs into considerations, in others solutions have to found on a case-by-case basis. Here, too, the principle of seeking a dialogue with the heads of the institution early on and in a transparent manner should be observed.
Questions and conflicts
It is generally advisable to study the applicable regulations and procedures on the associated websites, to seek an open dialogue with those responsible and to work out mutually acceptable solutions. In the case of questions or conflicts, the SIG is prepared to help insofar as its possibilities and expertise in the matter concerned allow.