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Fathers should share parental leave, says commission

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Fathers should share parental leave, says commission
Share parental leave is popular in Scandinavia. File photo: Giovanni Blank
12:30 CEST+02:00
Parents in Switzerland should get 24 weeks shared parental leave following the birth of their child, with part of it reserved by law for fathers, an advisory body has said.

“Parental leave is a judicial investment in the future of our society because it benefits children, mothers, fathers, families and the Swiss economy,” the federal commission for women's issues (EKF) said in a statement on Thursday.

Currently women in Switzerland are entitled to 14 weeks paid maternity leave following the birth of their child.

There is no statutory paternity leave, with fathers only entitled to take one or two ‘family days' when their child is born. Only a few companies offer more than that.

Switzerland is one of the stingiest countries in Europe on the subject, with the average maternity leave within the EU being 23 weeks, according to a 2014 European Parliament report. The EU paternity leave average is 12.5 days, though some countries such as Sweden allow far more through shared parental leave policies.

“It is vital to improve conditions so that the two parents can pursue their careers and agree to share the workload following the birth of a child,” said the EKF.

The proposed 24 weeks parental leave should include a minimum amount reserved for fathers, fixed by law, said the commission, so fathers can “reinforce their presence in family life”.

“The few days' paternity leave that rare employers give after the birth is insufficient for fathers to actively participate in looking after their children,” it said.

Shared parental leave would help debunk stereotypes regarding the roles of men and women in working life and childcare. It would also motivate workers and reduce staff turnover, therefore boosting the economy, it added.

“The experience of Scandinavian countries shows that shared parental leave clearly contributes to keeping women in the workforce.”

Speaking to The Local, new mother Coral Palmer, a New Zealander living in Lausanne, said: “It was really stressful looking after a newborn by myself as a new parent.”

Her husband's Geneva-based company granted him just two extra days paternity leave in addition to the single ‘family day'.

“As it was my husband took off two weeks of his holiday leave so he could bond with her when she was born. Now he doesn't have much time left for family holidays,” said Palmer.

“It would be better for his relationship with our daughter to have more time with her, and for our own relationship to know that he could share the childcare.”

The commission called for maximum flexibility, with people able to take their parental leave in chunks of days or weeks during the first 12 months after the child is born.

As is currently the case with maternity leave, parental leave should be paid at 80 percent of a person's salary to a maximum of 196 francs a day, it said.

Speaking to The Local, EKF vice-president Pierre-André Wagner said the commission's report aims to put “parental leave on the political agenda, to provoke a public discussion, to heighten public and political awareness of the issue”.

While the commission has no direct influence on the legislative process, Wager said they had had discussions with members of parliament and had hope that one might take the issue further.

“In the current Swiss political climate our proposal is utopian,” he added.

The EKF is a permanent extraparliamentary commission established by the Swiss government 40 years ago to analyze and promote women's rights in Switzerland.

It focuses on areas including work/family balance, protecting women against violence and social security issues.

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