Before a Swiss popular vote or referendum can be launched 100,000 valid signatures must be collected within the space of 18 months.
The group behind a vote to introduce paid paternity leave of four weeks recently announced it had collected more than 120,000 signatures, 6 months ahead of the 18 month deadline, suggesting there might be widespread public support for the plan. The next step involves officially registering the initiative with the Federal Chancellery, something which will happen over the summer.
Adrian Wüthrich, director of the campaign and president of Travail Suisse told 20 Minutes: “Paternity leave has aroused a lot of interest among members of the public.”
The organising committee’s internet campaign was a major success. According to a press release, nearly 60,000 signatures were collected via the website wecollect.ch, which sets out a number of other initiatives campaigning for signatures.
The initiative’s text requires paid paternity leave of 20 days, which can be taken anytime within one year of a child’s birth. The payments would be 80% of salary.
The current rules provide no paternity leave. Instead a clause designed for other events is used to provide new fathers with one day of unpaid leave. Under collective agreements some workers get paternity leave, however there is nothing in Swiss labour law that provides universal paternity leave. Currently, many new fathers use holiday leave. Under Swiss law mothers are guaranteed 14 weeks.
The proposed paternity leave would be financed via the social security system in the same way as maternity leave currently is. In Switzerland, social security payments, a form of salary tax, are deducted from pay. The employer then pays a similar amount on top of the sum deducted from salaries. The resulting funds are used to pay state pensions, disability benefits, maternity leave and other payments. All employees and employers pay regardless of whether they benefit.
Based on the campaign’s own calculations the total cost would be CHF 380 million p.a. if all fathers took the full 20 days. This would mean an additional cost of 0.06 percent of all salaries, say the initiators.
In addition, they point out that given the constant reduction in payments made for military service leave, salary deductions might not need to be increased. This however highlights another inequality in favour of women. Compulsory military service applies only to men.