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Old 24.04.2013, 10:49
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no escape from a fixed-term contract?

According to the Human Resources department at the ETH Zürich, people on fixed-term contracts (i.e. postdoctoral researchers and graduate students) cannot leave their contracts unless released by their employers. There is no notice period.

Can this possibly be true?
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Old 24.04.2013, 10:58
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

What does your contract of employment say? I'm on a fixed term PhD contract (not at the ETH) and I can give 3 months notice any time I like.
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Old 24.04.2013, 11:00
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

I'd say BS. I can't see anywhere getting away with this. Might be worth perusing the Federal law on employment.
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Old 24.04.2013, 11:02
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

The contract says:

Kündigungsfrist: richtet sich nach dem Bundespersonalgesetz (BPG), Art 11/12
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Old 24.04.2013, 11:14
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

This is what that legislation says:

Als Grund für die fristlose Kündigung durch die Vertragsparteien gilt jeder Umstand, bei dessen Vorhandensein der kündigenden Partei nach Treu und Glauben die Fortsetzung des Arbeitsverhältnisses nicht mehr zugemutet werden darf.

Unfortunately, my German isn't good enough to decipher legal speak .
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Old 24.04.2013, 11:17
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

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The contract says:

Kündigungsfrist: richtet sich nach dem Bundespersonalgesetz (BPG), Art 11/12
... which in turn says the following:

  • An indefinite-term contract can be cancelled by either party with varying notice periods and for various reasons. How long the notice period is depends on how long the contract has already run.
  • Either a fixed-term contract or an indefinite-term contract can be cancelled without notice at any time if circumstances render you, i.e. the party wishing to cancel, unable in good faith to fulfil the conditions of your contract.


With this exception, what HR told you is exactly right: a fixed-term contract can be ended early only by mutual consent. The standard deadlines and notice periods don't apply.
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Old 24.04.2013, 11:19
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

Okay, what would be considered a "good faith" reason to be unable to fulfill the conditions of the contract?
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Old 24.04.2013, 11:24
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

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According to the Human Resources department at the ETH Zürich, people on fixed-term contracts (i.e. postdoctoral researchers and graduate students) cannot leave their contracts unless released by their employers. There is no notice period.

Can this possibly be true?
If you have agreed to do something for a fixed period of time, then you have agreed to do it! What is so difficult to understand!
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Old 24.04.2013, 11:30
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

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If you have agreed to do something for a fixed period of time, then you have agreed to do it! What is so difficult to understand!
Gee, I don't know...maybe sometimes a situation changes? Maybe life is unpredictable? Maybe a contract that made sense to both parties no longer does?
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Old 24.04.2013, 11:35
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

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Gee, I don't know...maybe sometimes a situation changes? Maybe life is unpredictable? Maybe a contract that made sense to both parties no longer does?
I assume you've talked to HR about your situation?

If you have a genuine reason then it's unlikely they will keep someone around that doesn't want to work there.
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Old 24.04.2013, 11:41
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

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If you have agreed to do something for a fixed period of time, then you have agreed to do it! What is so difficult to understand!
I'm sure there's plenty of good reasons why a position, fixed term or not, becomes untenable; whether it's work-related, interpersonal problems, personal issues. To me, the wording of the law states that there is no fixed notice period, not that the contract cannot be terminated at all. etc
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Old 24.04.2013, 11:47
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

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Okay, what would be considered a "good faith" reason to be unable to fulfill the conditions of the contract?

OK, let me translate that more carefully. Circumstances have to be such that you, the party wishing to cancel, "cannot in good faith be expected to fulfill the conditions of the contract." (... die Fortsetzung des Arbeitsverhältnisses nicht mehr zugemutet werden darf.)

Generally these have to do either with company finances (they can't pay you, or haven't paid you) or with so-called "injuries to personhood", i.e. being demoted with no reason at all, given personally degrading work to do, having signatory powers you need for your job taken away.

It seems unlikely that an grad student or postdoc will have experienced any of these circumstances. On the other hand academic programs have little incentive to retain someone (past the end of the semester at least) who desperately wants out. You may well find there is room for negotiation.
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Old 24.04.2013, 11:56
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

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I'm sure there's plenty of good reasons why a position, fixed term or not, becomes untenable; whether it's work-related, interpersonal problems, personal issues. To me, the wording of the law states that there is no fixed notice period, not that the contract cannot be terminated at all. etc
Sure it can be terminated - by the consent of both parties. This is always true.

What isn't true is that it can be unilaterally terminated - not without serious reasons as specified. If you do this, you will forfeit a chunk of your (already-paid) salary as well as any damages the employer can show resulted.

More info and discussions of case law (in German, sorry):
http://www.seco.admin.ch/themen/0038...sprungmarke0_8
http://www.ktipp.ch/beratung/1037187...sen_Kuendigung
http://www.fristlose-kuendigung.ch/f...g-arbeitnehmer
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Old 24.04.2013, 11:58
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

If you didn't hand in your notice upon signing the contract you are automatically enslaved for life, with the contract on unlimited renewal.

No way out, courts won't back you, this is common contract in Switzerland. Just be fortunate you never signed up at the gym, then you would be in real trouble.

Always read and understand before you sign.

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Old 24.04.2013, 12:26
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

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If you didn't hand in your notice upon signing the contract you are automatically enslaved for life, with the contract on unlimited renewal.

No way out, courts won't back you, this is common contract in Switzerland. Just be fortunate you never signed up at the gym, then you would be in real trouble.

Always read and understand before you sign.

I actually got out of my gym membership. All I had to do was ask very nicely...while heavily pregnant...
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Old 24.04.2013, 12:27
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

This sounds so weird I was actually curious and I found a very useful website:

https://www.ch.ch/en/terminating-employment-contract/

Important part:

"Fixed term employment contracts end on a fixed date. It is not possible to terminate a fixed-term employment contract before the stated date, unless the contract provides for an early termination or good cause exists."

So... you better read your contract and look for the early termination clause... although I don't see how retaining someone who doesn't want to work can be in the interest of the employer.

Good Luck



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According to the Human Resources department at the ETH Zürich, people on fixed-term contracts (i.e. postdoctoral researchers and graduate students) cannot leave their contracts unless released by their employers. There is no notice period.

Can this possibly be true?
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Old 24.04.2013, 13:12
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

I work for ETH Zurich on a fixed one-year contract.

And it can be cancelled with a 3-months notice period by any side
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Old 24.04.2013, 13:19
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

The fact that other people have 3 month notice periods is irrelevant. What matters is the contract of the OP, which does not have a notice period.

In addition to what is already mentioned, you can also get out of such a contract, without penalty, if circumstances make it impossible for you to fulfil the duties. However, what you consider "impossible", the employer may not - but it would be judge who would make the final decision.

Talk to HR and tell them straight up you are seeking exit, and explain why.
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Old 24.04.2013, 13:33
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

Start breaking stuff. Accidentally, of course.
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Old 28.03.2019, 19:34
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Re: no escape from a fixed-term contract?

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According to the Human Resources department at the ETH Zürich, people on fixed-term contracts (i.e. postdoctoral researchers and graduate students) cannot leave their contracts unless released by their employers. There is no notice period.

Can this possibly be true?
I observed this happen from the other perspective. A grad student joined a lab and either immediately realized or knew all along it was not the lab for them. They didn't have an offer from a position they're interested in at the time. They decided to not try in their position (showing up ~twice a week), collect a salary (47k CHF at ETHZ), and apply for other positions. The Prof. was not happy about this and tried to fire them but was not able to due nature of Fixed Term contract. There was no trial period in the initial contract, the Prof was unaware of this. The situation became untenable and they were kicked out of lab. But, the Prof. is still on the hook for the remaining 10 months of salary.

I'm pretty supportive of worker protections in general, especially in a space where employee abuse is common (for example). It's pretty disappointing to see a bad actor abuse the system. Understand your contracts and work with people you trust folks.
 




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