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17. Employee benefits

The employee benefit plans of the Group are based on legal requirements in the respective countries. Beyond these regulatory requirements, the Group provides meals, housing, education and access to medical care according to the local operating group’s policy.

The Group’s contribution to defined contribution plans amounted to EUR 0.6 million in 2018 (2017: decrease of EUR 69 648).

The pension plan for employees in Switzerland is a defined benefit plan and covers the risks of age, death and disability. Financing occurs by means of employer and employee contributions, defined in the pension fund rules in terms of an age related sliding scale of percentages of salary, as well as returns from the investments made by the pension fund. The pension fund guarantees the vested benefit amount as confirmed annually to members, as regulated by Swiss law. Interest may be added to member balances at the discretion of the Board of Trustees. At retirement date, members have the right to take their retirement benefit as a lump sum or as an annuity.

No material plan amendment, curtailment or settlement has occurred during the year.

Changes in the present value of the defined benefit obligation
in thousand EUR   2018   2017
Defined benefit obligation at 1 January   2 983   2 908
Current service costs   277   284
Interest costs   22   20
Contribution by plan participants   90   84
Actuarial losses/(gains)   53   –60
Benefits paid/transferred   244   6
Currency effects   132   –259
31 December   3 801   2 983
 
Plans wholly or partly funded   3 801   2 983
Plans wholly unfunded    
Movement in the fair value of the plan assets
in thousand EUR   2018   2017
Opening fair value of plan assets   1 772   1 715
Interest income   14   12
Return on plan assets excluding interest income   15   –40
Contributions by the employers   163   148
Contributions by plan participants   90   84
Benefits paid/transferred   244   6
Currency effects   82   –153
31 December   2 380   1 772
in thousand EUR   2018   2017
Present value of obligations   3 801   2 983
Fair value of plan assets   2 380   1 772
Net liability   1 421   1 211
Changes in net liability
in thousand EUR   2018   2017
Opening net liability   1 211   1 193
Pension cost recognized in profit or loss   285   292
Pension cost recognized in other comprehensive income   38   –20
Employer contributions   –163   –148
Currency effects   50   –106
Recognized in profit or loss   1 421   1 211

Amounts recognized in profit or loss in respect of the defined benefit plan are as follows:

in thousand EUR   2018   2017
Current service costs   277   284
Net interest costs   8   8
Recognized in profit or loss   285   292

Amounts recognized in other comprehensive income in respect of the defined benefit plan are as follows:

in thousand EUR   2018   2017
Return of plan assets excluding interest income   15   –40
Changes in demographic assumptions    
Changes in financial assumptions   146  
Experience adjustments   –199   60
Recognized in other comprehensive income   –38   20

The assets are invested in a multi-employer plan and are therefore mixed. Thus, it is not possible to disclose the asset allocation as requested in IAS 19.

Principal actuarial assumptions used
    2018   2017
Expected employer contributions   164 521   150 400
Discount rates   0.90%   0.70%
Expected salary increases   1.00%   1.00%
Expected long-term increase of pensions   0.00%   0.00%
Sensitivity to changes in the principal assumptions
in thousand EUR   DBO   Effect
Actuarial assumption 31 December 2018   3 801    
Discount rate +0.5%   3 459   –9.50%
Discount rate –0.5%   4 194   11.00%
Salary increase rate +0.5%   3 839   1.30%
Salary increase rate –0.5%   3 765   –1.30%