According to statistics from the Conférence suisse des offices de conciliation, 11 cases of dismissal due to maternity were reported in 2013. In addition, there were 6 reported cases of women losing their jobs because they fell pregnant during their job’s trial period.
In Switzerland, dismissal is deemed void if it is done during pregnancy or during the 6 weeks following birth. Firing outside these periods is also illegal and discriminatory if it is motivated by maternity.
Despite this many illegal sackings go unchallenged. Penalties for illegal dismissal, decided by judges, run up to a maximum of 6 months of salary. Switzerland’s Federal Council has proposed increasing the penalty ceiling to 12 months of salary, however the heavily disputed proposal is currently on hold.
According to the Swiss Federal Council these sackings are a symptom of a wider problem linked to the challenges of balancing work and family life. Increasing penalties is not enough. More needs to be done to explain the benefits of employing mothers.
Improving the interplay between family and professional life is one of Switzerland’s strategies for dealing with the shortage of qualified workers, in particular, flexible working hours, part time work, working from home and job sharing.
“This shift requires a change of mindset” says the government. Studies show such measures also benefit companies by improving staff motivation and loyalty.