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Switzerland’s new 38-week parental leave proposal: what you need to know

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Switzerland’s new 38-week parental leave proposal: what you need to know
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10:03 CEST+02:00
An expert commission called for Switzerland to catch up with the rest of the developed world by introducing nine and a half months of paid parental leave. Here’s what you need to know.

Who is behind the proposal?

The plan has been put forward by the Federal Commission for the Coordination of Family Affairs (COFF), a consultative body which advises the government on family issues.

What are the details?

The COFF wants Switzerland to introduce 38 weeks parental leave. Under the plans, mothers would have 14 weeks and fathers eight. The remaining 16 weeks off work would be optional and shared between both parents.

Parents would be paid 80 percent of their salary, as long as certain conditions are met. The leave could be taken within the first three years of a child’s birth.

What is the current situation in Switzerland?

Currently, mothers are entitled to 14 weeks leave but there is no statutory paternal leave. Fathers can often take one or two ‘family’ days.

What are COFF’s arguments?

In its new report, COFF says Switzerland is a long way behind the rest of the developed wold on parental leave.

The COFF report, based on 140 scientific studies, notes that half of all OECD countries have at least 43 weeks parental leave. It highlights the benefits of shared parental leave in terms of family wellbeing and gender equality.

The group also says shared parental leave means women do not have to give up jobs and careers for their children while employers see less staff turnover.

What is the cost of the plan?

Elizabeth Zemp, who oversaw the COFF research, puts the cost at 1–1.5 billion francs a year. But in an interview with the Le Matin Dimanche newspaper, she said this cost could be covered by a one-percent increase in female participation in the workforce.

Is there any chance the proposal will be adopted?

The short answer is no, as Socialist MP Jacques-André Maire, one of the joint backers of a new paternal leave proposal facing the parliament, told the 24 heures newspaper.

He said the proposal had no chance “given the current composition of the parliament”.

But as that paper noted, the timing of the new report is not accidental. It comes in the midst of a raging debate over parental leave in the Swiss capital and will, at the very least, stir the pot a little.

What are the other options on the table?

The Swiss parliament is set to look at a popular initiative calling for four weeks leave for fathers. The initiative was signed by 107,000 people and is backed by groups including labour group Travail Suisse, feminist umbrella organization Alliance F, men's group männer.ch and Pro Familia Suisse.

Read also: How Switzerland's direct democracy system works

But the Swiss government before the summer recommended the parliament reject the proposal, arguing it would place too great a burden on the economy and present companies with organizational challenges.

The Socialist Party backs the four-week paternal leave initiative – which would be voted on in a popular referendum – while the Christian Democrats (CVP) are calling for two weeks statutory leave for fathers.

The political outliers are the Greens who have called for eight months parental leave with 14 weeks for mothers and eight weeks for fathers with the remainder to be shared.

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