The Swiss population has voted to introduce statutory paternity leave, as part of a package of new measures. But is now the right time to prioritise fathers’ rights?
On 27th September 2020, statutory paternity leave of two weeks was put to a national vote. It covers 80% of a biological father’s earnings if claimed within the first six months of childbirth. It is estimated to cost CHF230m per year (£195m), with the money taken from the social security system, funded in equal parts by employers and employees.
Although Switzerland sits at the bottom of the table when it comes to paternity leave in Europe – at just two to three days under the code of obligations – Swiss People’s Party politician Michele Moor believes it is too “costly and superfluous” to introduce a two-week statutory paternity leave at a time of “severe economic crisis”.
He also takes a biological approach to his opposition, insisting that “laws of nature must be accepted”. However, he does appreciate that fathers may want to spend time with their newborns, as he claims men should use their “holiday time – which could not be put to better use than in the first year of a child’s life”.
Maya Graf, a Green Party Senator, focuses more on the need to improve fathers’ rights and adapt to a “modern society”.
“Switzerland is an outlier in Europe,” she has claimed. Graf believes that a two-week statutory paternity leave will “give fathers equal rights and reduce the risk to mothers’ careers”.
60% of the Swiss population voted in favour of statutory paternity leave, which mirrors EMEA Recruitment’s own findings.
When we conducted a poll on LinkedIn of 725 professionals about a month ago, 82% of respondents said that statutory paternity leave in Switzerland should be longer than the proposed two weeks. Just 2% said it should be shorter, while another 2% believe it shouldn’t be introduced at all. 14% said two weeks is the right amount.
Moor claims that introducing paid leave will “not add to the equality of the sexes”.
He makes a point that it will not eliminate the “unacceptable disparity in pay between men and women”, although Graf argues that statutory paternity leave will “counter labour shortages” and allow “both parents to participate from the start, with housework and childcare duties”.
Graf’s argument will ring true with a lot of Swiss women, who are expected to give up their careers when they have children and stay at home.
Aside from Moor’s concerns over the “expansion of the welfare state”, paternity leave doesn’t seem the most pressing issue when it comes to family life and gender equality in Switzerland.
At 14 weeks, maternity leave is at the lower end of the scale. More importantly, there is no job protection after the return to work, which can leave women vulnerable to redundancy in the event they choose to return part-time. Childcare is expensive, the school day is relatively short and does not tend to cover lunchtimes.
All of these are factors which contribute to a mere 41% of women working full-time, by contrast with 82% of men. By extension, this leads to 64% of managerial positions being occupied by men.
As a father who lived in Switzerland during the births of two children, our Swiss Country Director, Mark Dowsett, agrees that statutory paternity leave should be introduced. However, he is concerned that bigger issues could have been addressed first.
Switzerland has lots of catching up to do when it comes to women’s roles within the family, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to keep up to date with fathers’ rights, too.