Paternity leave supporters gain small victory in long-running battle
The finance commission of the National Council – Switzerland’s lower house of parliament – has come out in favour of giving fathers in Switzerland two weeks paternity leave in the first six months after the birth of their child.
The commission was debating a popular initiative ‘For a reasonable paternity leave – in favour of all the family’ which proposes four weeks of paternity leave for fathers, as well as a counter-proposal to grant them just two weeks.
The popular initiative has already been rejected by parliament’s upper house, which suggested the counter-proposal instead. The Federal Council, the government executive, has pronounced itself against both the initiative and its counter-proposal.
However the finance commission said that the counter-proposal was a satisfactory compromise, when the cost was weighed against the benefits, and voted in favour by 16 to 6, reported news agency ATS.
It remains to be seen whether this will affect what has become a long-running argument in Switzerland over the issue of paternity leave.
Currently, fathers get no statutory leave at all in Switzerland when their children are born although many can take a single "family day". Mothers get 14 weeks leave at 80 percent pay.
The government feels that paternity leave would be too expensive, and that it would be better value for money to offer a greater range of childcare options and increased carer leave for the parents of seriously ill children.
It also feels that paternity leave should be an issue for individual companies, not the state.
Indeed many companies in Switzerland have reacted to the debate in recent months by adding paternity leave to their list of benefits in an attempt to attract talent.
On 1 June the Swiss government granted its approval for the popular initiative to be put to the public vote, but recommended that the people vote against it.