The question of paternity leave passed a first milestone in the Swiss parliament on Thursday as the Senate voted in favour of two weeks paid leave for new fathers.
Bittersweet progress for advocates of paternity leave in the parliament on Thursday morning: though Senators rejected the idea put forward of 20 days paid leave, a counterproposal of two weeks was accepted (29 votes for, 14 against).
The counterproposal, prepared by the Senate’s social security and health committee, was accepted against the advice of the government and foresees a flexible leave of ten days that can be taken as a bloc or spread throughout the first six months following birth.
The full 20-day initiative was supported only by left-leaning Senators, some of whom maintained after the debate that two weeks is not enough for new fathers to engage in parenthood.
The father-child bond is “forged in the smells of bath-time and deepened with each embrace”, said Social Democrat Senator Liliane Maury-Pasquier, rather poetically.
Right-wing figures reckon that both proposals go too far, and that while larger firms can afford to pay such leave, smaller businesses will suffer.
As for the government, represented by Interior Minister Alain Berset, the principle of paternity leave is not in question, but rather the timing; he said that private solutions and partnerships to ease the burden of child-minding should be pursued.
Coming from nothing
To benefit from the paid leave, dads will have to have been insured for the nine months leading up to birth, as well be employed or engaged in some professional activity.
Currently, in offering zero days of statutory paid paternity leave, Switzerland is bottom of the table of industrialised countries along with the United States, Germany and Japan.
The current debate was prompted by a 2017 people’s initiative, handed in by a group led by the Travail Suisse trade union group (see below), who collected the requisite 100,000 signatures needed to put their idea of 20 days paid leave on the political table.
After Thursday’s vote, the issue will now travel for debate to the House of Representatives, the other parliament chamber.