On 27 September 2020, Swiss voters have many decisions to make. The list of referenda is long and includes decisions on fighter jets, ending the free movement of people between Switzerland and the EU, hunting and tax deductions for child care. Another is a decision on whether to accept a proposal to grant fathers two weeks of paid paternity leave.
The original proposal for 4 weeks of paid leave was withdrawn in 2019 in favour of a plan to offer 2 weeks of paid leave for fathers within 6 months of birth.
Currently, Switzerland has 14 weeks of paid maternity leave but there is no paid leave for fathers. Maternity leave is funded via a payroll tax and the proposed paternity leave would be funded in the same manner.
The proposal has been contentious. The main bone of contention is around who pays and who benefits.
Many against it view it as a new tax that they cannot afford to fund something they do not want. Those for it are typically focused on how it would help dads spend time with their young children and incentivise those dads who have no plans to spend time off work with their newborns to do so.
A government commission that looked at the issue of paid leave for fathers came out in favour of a gender neutral system of pooled parental leave. Under this model, paid leave would be shared between mothers and fathers whichever way they decided. The advantage of such a system is that it doesn’t prejudice families with fathers that do not to take time off work when their children are born. These families wouldn’t be forced to fund leave via payroll taxes that they gain no benefit from.
However, the idea of such a scheme was rejected by the vote organisers. They made it clear they would prefer a use-it-or-lose-it system that encouraged all fathers to take time off to look after their newborns.
A majority of the Federal Council, Switzerland’s executive branch, parliament (129 yes, 66 no, 2 abstentions) and the Council of States, Switzerland’s upper house (31 yes, 11 no, 3 abstentions) all support the plan.
Political support for the vote widespread. The only party where voters appear firmly against the plan is the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP). All other major parties are polling majorities in favour of the initiative.