Parliament agrees to paid maternity leave

Parliament has agreed to give mothers 14 weeks of paid leave Keystone

Parliament has approved the introduction of statutory paid maternity leave, but stopped short of granting equal rights to mothers of adopted children.

This content was published on September 18, 2003 minutes

Gainfully employed mothers will now receive 14 weeks’ paid maternity leave, based on 80 per cent of their salary.

However, the rightwing Swiss People’s Party has threatened to challenge the bill in a nationwide vote, claiming statutory maternity leave will cost too much.

Parliament is currently debating controversial proposals to slash public spending by SFr3.3 billion ($2.4 billion) to avoid massive deficits over the next few years.

To bring the issue to a nationwide vote, the People’s Party must gather 50,000 signatures. But if they fail to oppose the bill, parliament plans to make it law on October 3.

On Thursday the Senate overcame the final hurdle by voting to exclude mothers of adopted children.

The centre-right Christian Democratic Party had argued that including this group of mothers would only cost an additional SFr2 million.

Long process

Until now, it has been up to employers to decide whether to pay maternity leave, even though the concept of maternity benefit was enshrined in the constitution almost 60 years ago.

The Swiss have rejected proposals for the introduction of paid maternity leave three times over the past 15 years.

Most recently - in 1999 - a federal law was rejected in a nationwide vote. But that law did not specifically refer to women who are in gainful employment.

Switzerland is the last country in western Europe to introduce maternity benefit. Only canton Geneva currently offers maternity leave for working mothers.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The concept of statutory maternity benefits was enshrined in the constitution in 1945.
Up until now, the provision of maternity leave was down to employers to decide.
Only canton Geneva currently offers maternity leave.

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In brief

The Senate agreed to exclude mothers of adopted children by 21 votes to 12, removing the final hurdle to accepting the bill on paid maternity leave.

The Swiss People’s Party said they would challenge the bill, because it would cost too much money.

Switzerland has rejected proposals for maternity leave three times over the past 15 years, the most recent was in 1999.

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