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Calls for paternity leave become louder

It's an important time for father and child Ex-press

The umbrella organisations for the rights of families and men in Switzerland are calling for fathers to play a more active role and be entitled to paternity leave.

This content was published on June 15, 2007 - 16:59

The launch of their campaign - in a country that lags way behind other European nations on the issue - comes ahead of Sunday's first national Father's Day.

The president of family organisation Pro Familia, Laurent Wehrli, told a news conference in Bern on Friday that fathers were often confronted with pressure from male colleagues and had more difficulties reconciling their professional and family lives than mothers.

A "real sharing" of responsibilities therefore had to be encouraged by the whole of society, he argued.

Markus Theunert from the umbrella organisation of men's and fathers' groups regretted that there was often a notion that being a father implied a lack of identification with the company where he worked and a lack of commitment.

Federal legislation

One of the champions of paternity leave, Social Democrat parliamentarian Roger Nordmann, had a proposal to introduce such leave narrowly accepted in the House of Representatives in March.

Nordmann is campaigning for paternity leave to be anchored in federal legislation, an idea the government has rejected. The Senate – the parliamentary chamber representing Switzerland's cantons – has yet to debate the issue.

It is expected this will take place in parliament's autumn session.

On Friday, Nordmann said paternity leave allowed a father to develop a privileged and intense relationship with his child, which would be useful throughout the child's life.

It also allowed the father to help the mother in the first difficult moments.

Realistic?

In a reaction to the campaign, the Swiss Association of Single Parents described the demands as "out of touch with reality". It said it was not against the aims as such but against the concrete wording of the law.

Most of the 70,000 men who become fathers in Switzerland every year have to return to work after only two days off at the time of birth.

If they wish further time off, they have to take either holiday or ask for unpaid leave.

Nordmann has noted that according to a recent survey published in the French-language L'Hebdo weekly, 79 per cent of those questioned were in favour of paternity leave. Almost 63 per cent wanted such leave to last for at least a month.

Nordmann's proposal speaks of several weeks' leave.

In a related development, calls were made on Thursday not only for married parents to be co-responsible for their children, but also unmarried parents, parents who were separated and those who were divorced.

The demand for a change of the civil code comes more than 25 years after judicial equality between men and women.

The aim is to protect the interests of the child, in particular its rights to maintain a personal relationship with both parents.

swissinfo with agencies

Paternity leave

Comparisons with other European countries show that Germany gives a maximum of 14 months' leave with parental pay if the father takes at least two months' holiday.

Finland gives three weeks to fathers during the first four months. Spain also grants three weeks.

France and Britain offer two weeks.

In Austria the law states that the father is allowed to take unpaid leave up to the child's second birthday.

Sweden gives 15 months' parental leave, of which at least one month is for the father.

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Father's Day

Sunday marks the launch of the first national Father's Day in Switzerland.

One of the people behind the Father's Day project, Andreas Borter from the umbrella organisation of men and fathers' groups in Switzerland, has commented: "Fathers should reflect with each other about their roles".

The president of the organisation, Markus Theunert, said the day should be used as an opportunity to discuss being a father at a time when traditional role models were no longer the same and when career and family were also a man's concern.

Various events to mark the day are taking place across the country, including a trip on a lake steamer and a football match for fathers and children.

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