Swiss men in line for paternity leave boost
The Federal Commission for Women's Issues (CFQF) has asked the government to change the law and grant parents a minimum of 24 weeks of paid leave to be divided equally between mother and father after their child is born.
If the proposal is accepted by the Federal Council and the government, it would constitute an important victory for equal rights activists.
In Switzerland, women were only granted the right to paid maternity leave in 2005 and men usually get just two or three days off, always at the discretion of the company since the Swiss legislation does not cover paternity leave.
The CFQF says changes in the law are necessary to create “incentives” for the fathers to be more involved in the care of their children and says companies should be ready to grant this parental leave.
The National Commission for the coordination of family affairs (COOF) agrees with the minimum 24-week proposal made by the CFQF. The six-month leave could be taken during the first three or four years of the child and it could be divided up in several periods, the commission suggests in order for parents to find individual solutions to their needs. It would be up to parents to decide who stays at home and for how long.
Fathers on parental leave would get the same remuneration as mothers: 80 percent of their salary up to a ceiling of 196 francs per day ($216).
The COOF estimates that if the proposal were passes into law, it would generate an expense of between 1.1 and 1.2 million francs per year. If fathers took more than four weeks off, costs would be higher since male income is generally higher than female earnings.
Maternity benefit was anchored in the Swiss constitution in 1945. However, the Swiss rejected compulsory paid maternity leave in four votes (1974, 1984, 1987 and 1999). It finally passed at the ballot box in September 2004 with 55.4% of the votes.
As of July 1, 2005, all women working in Switzerland qualify for a minimum of 14 weeks' maternity leave. These benefits are far away from the 47 weeks offered in Germany and Sweden, the 44 in Norway or the 34 in Greece.
A study conducted in 2010 by the Washington DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research ranked Switzerland near the bottom of a ranking measuring both generosity and gender equality of parental leave in 21 rich countries. The United States and Australia tied in last place on the list.