Swiss Bill to unravel bosses' secret code

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The Swiss parliament is this week debating a Bill aimed at eliminating the elaborate code that employers use to communicate with each other when writing job references.

"You'd be lucky to get Mr Jones to work for you" is a typical piece of double entendre addressed by the measure.

The practice might spare the former employee's feelings, but critics claim it makes it impossible for potential bosses in Switzerland to assess whether they should hire the worker. Ultimately it is also, they say, unfair to Mr Jones, who thinks he is getting a good reference.

The motion tabled to the Swiss upper house calls for an end to what its sponsors call an "undignified" and untenable habit. A new book on the subject provides Swiss job hunters with a guide to the traps set for them in a country where human resources managers take references very seriously.

According to Job References and their Secret Codes, "shows great sympathetic understanding towards his colleagues" means "constantly looking for dates from co-workers".

Alexander Tschaeppaet, author of the Bill, said references should be true, clear and complete. Some at present were discriminatory. "He shows the greatest sensitivity towards his colleagues" apparently means the applicant is a homosexual.