Switzerland lags behind most european countries on financial support aimed at easing the challenges of combining work with starting a family.
An initiative, which aims to introduce 20 days of paid paternity leave to make it easier for fathers to help at home when their children are young, is being discussed in Bern, but no vote date has been set.
This week, the federal commission for family issues (COFF), which was asked to advise on the initiative, said it supports the initiative’s aim but recommends separate paid maternity and paternity leave be replaced with paid shared parental leave, a system that allows parents to decide which of them takes time off work and when. Separate maternity and paternity leave favours fathers’ careers when the paid leave offered to mothers exceeds that for fathers because it costs mums less to stop work than dads.
COFF said in the current political environment it supports the introduction of two or four weeks of paternity leave. But it is convinced that what Switzerland really needs is 38 weeks of paid shared parental leave. It hopes this will come in the future.
Shared parental leave levels the playing field by giving couples the freedom to apportion the leave between them as they decide. It’s a gender neutral solution.
However, some proponents of shared parental leave want a version that undermines this neutrality. The Federal Commission for Women’s Issues (FCWI) calls for a system of paid parental leave that allocates a portion of it to fathers on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. Such a system implies central policy setters are able to determine the best outcome for every family. In practice it means those who conform to the central policy benefit while the rest miss out.