(Oct. 8, 2020) On September 27, 2020, Swiss voters approved by a vote of 60.34% to 39.66% a parliamentary initiative that introduces two weeks of paid paternity leave. Voter turnout was 59.3%. The initiative amends the Code of Obligations and the Loss of Earnings Compensation Act. The proposal was a direct counterproposal to a popular initiative filed on July 4, 2017, titled “For Common Sense Paternity Leave – To the Benefit of the Whole Family,” which requested the introduction of four weeks of paid paternity leave. The popular initiative was retracted on the condition of enactment of the parliamentary initiative for two weeks of paid paternity leave.
Background on Parental Leave
Article 116, paragraph 3 of the Swiss Constitution deals with child allowances and maternity insurance. It contains a specific mandate for the Swiss Confederation to establish maternity insurance, which was implemented in 2005. Mothers have the right to at least 14 weeks of paid maternity leave after giving birth. (Code of Obligations, art. 329f; Erwerbsersatzgesetz, art. 16b.) The compensation generally equals 80% of her income but is capped at 196 Swiss francs (CHF) (about US$214) per day. (Erwerbsersatzgesetz, arts. 16e, 16f.) Until the parliamentary initiative was approved, fathers were only granted “special days off” for the birth of a child, usually one or two days. (Code of Obligations, art. 329, para. 3.)
The Federal Assembly submitted a counterproposal to the 2017 popular initiative because it did not agree with the proposed length of paid paternity leave. As the parliamentary initiative did not propose to amend the Swiss Constitution, it was not subject to a mandatory referendum. However, an optional referendum was held, because a group opposed to paid paternity leave in general collected 50,000 signatories within 100 days of the official publication of the counterproposal. (Constitution, arts. 140, 141.)
Content of the Amendment
The amendment provides that the legal father has a right to two weeks of paid paternity leave. Paternity leave can be taken up to six months following the birth of the child and may be split up in daily or weekly increments. Consistent with the provisions on maternity leave, fathers will receive compensation equal to 80% of their income capped at 196 Swiss francs (CHF) (about US$214) per day.
An employer is prohibited from reducing a father’s general amount of leave if the father decides to take paternity leave.