The people's initiative to introduce paid paternity leave has reached the required number of signatures as government confirmed on Thursday.
One month after the campaign collected and deposed the signatures, the federal chancellery has counted and confirmed. Of the 107,455 handed in, 107,075 were valid – meaning that the public will likely get to vote on the simmering issue of paternity leave at a later stage.
The terms of the vote as outlined by the initiative are clear: 20 days, or four weeks of paternity leave, to be taken flexibly within a year of birth, and financed, like maternity leave, by a direct tax on employers and employees.
According to campaigners, the annual costs are foreseen as about CHF380 million ($396 million). In case of a “yes” vote, the initiative would have to be brought into force within a period of three years.
After years of political rejections – 30 proposals have been thrown out by parliament in recent years – the matter was taken up by an umbrella group of unions and NGOs earlier this year. The result was a campaign that gathered the requisite signatures six months ahead of deadline.
Adrian Wüthrich, head of the campaign committee and a Social Democratic Party politician, said at the time that he couldn’t remember campaign success on a similar scale over the past 20 years.
Currently in Switzerland, fathers are granted one day of paternity leave. Some bigger companies, public and private, offer paid leave to their employees, but the practice is not systematic.
It wasn’t until 2005 that statutory maternity leave was introduced in Switzerland – a full six decades after the benefit was enshrined in the country’s constitution.