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EXPLAINED: What parental leave are new parents entitled to in Switzerland?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: What parental leave are new parents entitled to in Switzerland?
Image by Stephanie Pratt from Pixabay

If you are about to become a parent (or have just became one), your Swiss employer must grant you some time off work — but it may not be as long you’d like.

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If you come from some EU countries, you are probably used to getting time off from work to be with your baby.

In France, for instance, new mothers are entitled to receive up to 26 weeks of leave.

And if you are Swedish (mother or father), and 480 days' parental leave is the norm for you, then it may seem like Switzerland — where mothers are entitled to 14 weeks and fathers to two — is seriously short-changing you.

During the 14-week (or 98-day) leave of absence, mothers in Switzerland are entitled to be paid 80 percent of their salary, up to a maximum of 196 francs a day.

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But while the paid maternity leave has been established in Switzerland in 2005 — years later than in the EU — fathers had to wait much longer to get that same (though more time- limited) right.

However, for Switzerland, that two-week leave is already much progress, as before 2021, the country had no statutory paternity leave, with most fathers only allowed to take one 'family day' off when their child was born.

There were two main reasons why fathers were not granted paternity leave: financial and cultural, which, in this case, were intertwined.

Switzerland has a strong history of individual responsibility, which promoted the idea that the state (or employer) should not pay for people choosing to have children, and the paternity leave would cost Swiss government 230 million francs per year.

Therefore, the idea was that fathers who wanted to remain home with their newborns in the first days of life should use their vacation time to do so — as many did.

Groundbreaking referendum

However, that changed on September 27th, 2020, when 60 percent of Swiss voters decided in favour of paternity leave. The law entered into effect of January 1st, 2021.

As The Local reported at the time, “Philippe Gnaegi, director of Pro Famila, said the result showed a shift in gender dynamics in Switzerland. 

“It shows that society has evolved and that a model where women have to stay at home is no longer appropriate for the times.” 

"This leave can be taken either on a weekly basis (weekends included) or on the basis of individual days", the government said, adding that “the paternity leave must be taken within six months of the birth of the child".

As far as compensation, fathers can receive a maximum of 2,744 Swiss francs during their two weeks of leave with the money to  be  paid under the state-run compensation scheme. 

The days do not, however, all need to be taken at once : fathers could elect to take one day off per week for ten weeks. 

Only biological fathers are entitled to claim the leave. 

Fathers will be eligible for the benefit after five months of working in Switzerland, and must have made at least nine months of contributions to the Swiss pension scheme. 

READ MORE : Everything you need to know about Switzerland’s paternity leave referendum
 

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Unhappy employers 

However, even though paternity leave is now a legal right in Switzerland, some fathers don’t take advantage of it.

As reported by RTS public broadcaster, the reasons include “a lack of knowledge on the part of father, but also pressure from employers”.

“We received around 80 calls from men complaining of pressure exerted by the employer, who was not at all in favour of them being able to take their paternity leave to which they were entitled”, according to Valérie Borioli Sandoz from Travail Suisse trade union.

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