When we discuss the topic of work certificates among colleagues in the cafeteria (discussions in the cafeteria are not always very funny…), you realize one thing: it’s hard to find your way through the jungle of work certificates! You hear rumors about the role of each one in its elaboration, you hear complaints about an almost non-existent law and an unclear workplace practice .

In short, a quick clarification is necessary.

What does the law say?

As is often the case in labour law, the law is succinct. Indeed, the legislator has only devoted one legal provision to the work certificate, which contains only very general rules (Art. 330a CO).

  • First and foremost, the worker may request a work certificate from his employer “at any time” (para. 1). This can be an intermediate or final work certificate.
  • Secondly, the employee can choose between a full and detailed certificate that relates to the nature and duration of the employment relationship, the quality of work and the conduct of the worker (para. 1) or a simple certificate that relates only to the nature and duration of the employment relationship (para. 2).

Given the brevity of the law, most of the rules concerning the work certificate have been established by case law (federal and cantonal courts).

And in practice? 

To put it simply, what we can learn from the law and case law is that the delivery of the work certificate is mandatory for the employer, and that the certificate must be delivered on various occasions:

  • During the term of employment, at the request of the employee. It could be for example on the occasion of a change of manager, a change of job, a promotion, or simply a sudden desire!
  • At the end of the employment relationship: in this case it should ideally be delivered no later than the month following the end of the contract. In the event of failure to comply with this obligation, the employer is liable to sanctions if the employee concerned complains to the Prud’hommes court.

The work certificate describes, in a relatively precise manner, the professional qualities of the employee, as well as his/her behaviour and the way in which he/she has blended into the company or team. It speaks as much about the know-how as about the interpersonal skills and it generally includes fundamental information such as the position held, the duration… It is therefore a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the employee, with a description of the tasks he/she has carried out.

What is the purpose of a work certificate? 

The purpose of the work certificate is to facilitate the professional career of the employee, but also to inform prospective employers as accurately as possible of the activity, performance and conduct of the worker.

It is mostly useful during a recruitment phase.

  • For the employee : it is supposed to facilitate his or her job search by justifying a professional activity and describing the quality of the services provided.
  • For the employer : it is an important means of information which provides both objective elements (nature of the function performed, length of employment) and subjective elements (quality of the work performed and appreciation of the worker’s conduct) which will help him to form an opinion on the candidate.

You must be mindful of the content of a work certificate and, it is important, do not hesitate to discuss it with the employee. Nothing offending about this practice, on the contrary!

How do I create a work certificate?

The creation of the work certificate can be long and tiresome. Today there are simple and effective automation solutions that save valuable time without neglecting the task.

Thanks to MyCerty, you can reduce the time required to create a work certificate by 75% and guarantee top quality to all your employees. 

Brice Rattez, HR Director

Want to save time on work certificates? Try MyCerty for free


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