Yesterday, Switzerland’s Federal Council rejected an initiative proposing paid paternity leave, and it recommends parliament do the same. It thinks the estimated CHF 420 million cost is too high. It also fears the proposed hike in social security tax (APG) to fund it, could hurt the economy.
The plan, which will be put to a popular vote, would allow fathers to take up to four weeks of paid leave within one year of a child’s birth. The sum paid would be 80% of the father’s salary, up to a maximum of CHF 3,920 for the full four weeks.
The Federal Council fears the 0.11% increase is social security tax could negatively affect businesses and the economy. It prefers a plan to help working parents over a longer time period rather than one focused on the 12 months after a child is born. Bern can already provide financial support to cantons and communes that subsidize child care.
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The referendum’s initiators complain that fathers working for small companies are disadvantaged. Large companies are more likely to provide paid paternity leave than smaller ones because of the cost. They see their initiative as a way to level the playing field.
The extra cost their plan entails will be paid by employers and employees.
In Switzerland, mums are guaranteed 14 weeks paid leave while many dads are guaranteed none. This encourages couples to favour men’s careers, even when some mums are better educated than their partners. According to the referendum’s initiators, equal paternity leave would break this pattern and remove a major source of gender inequality.
Another way to achieve paternity-leave equality, and remove the financial incentive favouring men’s careers, would be to take the 14 weeks currently guaranteed to mothers and give seven weeks of it to each parent. Another approach would be to offer it as a block of time to both parents who are left to decide freely how it is apportioned.