Family allowances in Switzerland: Practical guide and advice

Publié le Monday 27 May 2024 par Ivan Rego

Family allowances play a crucial role in the financial support of families in Switzerland, helping to cover the costs associated with the upkeep and education of children. However, the system can seem complex due to different cantonal regulations and varying eligibility criteria. In this article, we offer a practical guide to help you better understand the different forms of family allowance, the conditions for entitlement and the steps you need to take to qualify. Whether you are employed, self-employed or not in gainful employment, this guide will provide you with the essential information you need to navigate the Swiss family allowance system effectively.

What is family allowance and what is it for?

These allowances are intended to offset some of the costs that parents incur in supporting their children.

There are several types of family allowance:

  • Child allowance,
  • Education allowance,
  • Childbirth allowance,
  • Adoption allowance introduced by some cantons.

Family allowances are financed by social security contributions paid by the employer.

Who is entitled to child benefit?

There are several profiles of beneficiaries. In this article, we will focus solely on employees.

Only one allowance may be paid per child. Suppose more than one person (mother, father or other entitled persons) can claim child benefit. In that case, the person who meets at least one of the five criteria set out below will become the entitled person, i.e. the person who will receive the child benefit:

  1. The person who is gainfully employed,
  2. The person who has parental authority or had it until the child came of age,
  3. Where parental authority is held jointly or none of the entitled persons holds it, the person who lives most of the time with the child or lived with the child until he or she came of age; the person who looks after the child therefore has priority in the event of divorce or separation,
  4. If both entitled persons and the child live together, the person who is gainfully employed in the child's canton (or country) of residence,
  5. If both entitled persons work in the child's canton of residence, or if neither of them works there, the person with the higher AHV income from gainful employment. If neither parent has an income from paid employment, the parent with the highest income from self-employment has priority.

What type of child benefit is available?

  • Child benefit is paid from the month in which the child is born until the age of 16.
  • Education allowance is paid from the child's 16th birthday until the child is 25.
  • It may be paid when the child begins post-compulsory training (apprenticeship or studies) from the child's 15th birthday at the earliest.
  • Birth/adoption allowance is paid once in the month of birth.
  • This allowance is only paid in certain cantons.
  • The international differential allowance is paid if the amount of family benefits to which you would be entitled in the priority country (= country of residence) is lower than in the country where you work.
  • For example, a family living in France, where one parent works in France and the other parent is a cross-border commuter working in the canton of Geneva or Vaud, may apply for an international differential allowance.
  • The intercantonal differential allowance is paid if the amount of family allowance to which you would be entitled in the priority canton (= canton of residence) is lower than in the canton where you work.
  • For example, a family living in the canton of Vaud, where one parent works in the canton of Vaud and the other parent works in Geneva.

Please note: if your children are studying abroad, you may be entitled to family allowances under certain conditions. You will find useful information on the Children living abroad page of the Federal Social Insurance Office.

What is the amount of family allowance?

The federal law on family allowances (LAFam) sets a minimum amount per child per month for family allowances paid throughout Switzerland:

  • CHF 200.- per child per month for child allowance (GE: CHF 311.- / VD: CHF 300.-)
  • CHF 250.- per child per month for education allowance (GE: CHF 415.- / VD: CHF 400.-).

It should also be noted that from the 3rd child onwards, these amounts are increased by CHF 100 per month (in the cantons of Geneva and Vaud, among others).

The cantons are also free to introduce an additional birth/adoption allowance, payable in the month of the child's birth (GE: CHF 2,073 / VD: CHF 1,500). To qualify for this specific allowance, you must be resident in Switzerland.

How do I get child benefit?

Family allowance is not paid automatically; you have to claim it. If you are an employee, you must apply to your employer.

A form will then be completed by both parties (employer and employee) and sent by the employer to his compensation fund, together with the required supporting documents.

The benefits will be paid to the employee either directly by the compensation fund or via the employer.

Forgot to claim family allowances? The good news is that the funds accept a retroactive payment of up to five years.

Need help or advice?

The experts at Helvetic Payroll are on hand to help and advise you on all matters relating to family allowances. Don't hesitate to contact us for personalised advice.


As Operations Director at Helvetic Payroll, I combine my passion for human resources and payroll by trying to organise and harmonise the different aspects of the human, financial and administrative sides of the business as well as possible. Being in a company that’s exploring new ways of working, I’m lucky enough to be able to progress and learn in a very dynamic environment. It’s a real pleasure to be able to share my experience of the field and my knowledge by writing articles.

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