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14 October 2020
Family policy and the role of the state in this respect has always been a hot topic in Switzerland. According to Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) statistics, Switzerland is one of the seven OECD member states which does not grant fathers paid leave. To change the situation, a popular initiative proposing four-weeks' paternity leave was filed in July 2017. Parliament rejected the initiative as too costly and adopted an indirect counter-proposal proposing two-weeks' paternity leave. At the end of January 2020, a referendum was launched by an inter-party committee against paternity leave.
Parliament's proposal was passed by referendum on 27 September 2020 and as a result fathers will be entitled to two weeks' paternity leave from 1 January 2021. This article explains the scope and concrete modalities of this new social insurance scheme and its impact on companies in Switzerland.
Only fathers in the legal sense will be entitled to paternity leave. It makes no difference whether filiation is established by marriage to the mother, recognition or a court ruling. However, the biological father of a child born to a mother married to another man will not be entitled to paternity leave due to the absence of a legal link between him and the child.
Legal fathers must also:
Moreover, adoption does not, as it stands, entitle fathers to paternity leave. A parliamentary initiative to change this situation is currently pending before the federal chambers.
If the conditions for entitlement are met, fathers wishing to take paternity leave must still apply for it with the competent compensation fund (usually the one that collected the father's contributions).
Fathers may choose to take paternity leave in the form of single working days (10 days) or a block of two weeks (14 days). Each day of paternity leave entitles the father to a daily allowance. If the leave is taken in the form of isolated days, each block of five days entitles the father to two additional daily allowances, so that regardless of how the paternity leave is taken, the total number of daily allowances is 14.
Fathers can also take fewer than 10 days' leave. Thus, for example, fathers may take:
In all cases, paternity leave must be taken within six months of a child's birth.
The amount of paternity leave is calculated in the same way as maternity leave: 80% of gross monthly pay, but no more than Sfr196 per day. Thus, for example:
If the employer still pays the father his salary, the former will be reimbursed by the competent compensation fund. On the other hand, if the employer does not pay the father his salary or if the father is self-employed, the latter will receive the allowances himself.
Paternity leave is financed by income compensation allowances (APG), which are already used for military, civil service and maternity cases. The APG contribution rate will be increased from 0.45% to 0.50% of gross salary. Employees and employers each pay half of this contribution. Thus, for example:
In total, the Federal Social Insurance Office estimates the cost of paternity leave will be Sfr230 million per year.
Even before the vote on 27 September 2020, many voices were calling for more substantial parental leave, along the lines of the Nordic countries. For those in favour of parental leave, the acceptance of paternity leave is only a first step before the forthcoming launch of a parliamentary or popular initiative.
By contrast, several political parties and interest groups reject a further extension of social insurance. Their main argument relates to the excessive cost to companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, which would find it difficult to do without an employee for several weeks, let alone several months. Therefore, family policy and the role of the state in this respect will likely remain a hot topic in Switzerland in the coming years.
For more information please contact Rayan Houdrouge or Adrien Renaud at Lenz & Staehelin by telephone (+41 58 450 70 00) or email (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). The Lenz & Staehelin website can be accessed at www.lenzstaehelin.com.
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