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Days for dads Parliament strikes down paternity leave plan

A group gathered before Bern's parliament building last summer to call for paternity leave. A citizen's group has now said it will launch a people's initiative to force a nationwide vote on the issue

(Keystone)

Switzerland’s House of Representatives has struck down a proposal to give men two weeks of paid paternity leave. Its supporters are now preparing to launch a people’s initiative. 

The proposal, from centrist Christian Democratic parliamentarian Martin Candinas, called for new fathers to be given leave paid at 80% of their salary for a period of two weeks after their child is born. The incurred costs of about CHF200 million ($205 million) annually would be assumed collectively by employers through the income replacement fund. 

New mothers in Switzerland currently get 14 weeks of leave financed under the same scheme. 

The paternity leave proposal on Wednesday failed in the House by a vote of 97 to 90 with five abstentions. 

In calling on his colleagues to support paternity leave, Candinas said a father’s presence after the birth of a child is essential for a stable family life. 

“Paternity leave makes sense for the family and for society as a whole,” he argued.

Maja Ingold of the centrist Protestant Party expressed dissatisfaction with the way the paternity leave argument has unfairly been pitted against retirement benefits. Cabinet recently lowered employers’ required payment to the income replacement scheme in order to account for more retirement benefits being paid out. 

Regina Sauter of the centre-right Radicals spoke out against the paternity leave proposal, arguing that many employers already give new fathers extra days off to spend with their families. 

She found the proposal to be “an expensive gesture that we can’t afford” and said families should be left to organise their own affairs surrounding the birth of a child.

Group promises initiative

Following the proposal’s failure in the House, the trade union umbrella group Travail Suisse announced it would launch a people’s initiative seeking 20 days of paid leave for new fathers. 

The group’s director of social policy said in a statement that the parliamentary decision is “an insult to all fathers and mothers” and “anything but contemporary”.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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