Swiss vote approves nationwide paternity leave

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This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Aylin Elci, Communications Officer, World Economic Forum Geneva


  • Swiss voters recently approved paternity leave.
  • New dads will receive 10 days of paid leave starting January 1, 2021.
  • Paternity leave is offered by fewer countries than maternity leave and the benefit can vary widely in its length and compensation.

This week, the Swiss people voted in favour of paid parental leave for fathers, the New York Times reported. Switzerland is the last Western European country to grant such a provision.

When the law takes effect January 1, 2021, new fathers will be allowed 10 days of paid leave. Previously, new dads in the country received just one day of leave after a child’s birth.

Paternity leave was approved by parliament in 2019, reported The Hill, but after opposition from critics, the law was put to voters in a special referendum. In the vote this month, around 60% of voters supported the measure, mostly backed by Switzerland’s French and Italian speaking cantons.

Fathers taking the leave will be entitled to up to 80% of their pay, reports the New York Times, capped at up to 196 Swiss francs daily. Switzerland’s social insurance office estimates that the new policy will cost the country around 230 million Swiss francs per year.

Maternity leave is well established in OECD countries, where, on average, mothers are entitled to just more than 18 weeks of maternity leave taken around the time of childbirth. EU countries have been global leaders on parental leave, with some countries offering 80 weeks or more.

Fewer countries offer paternity leave – though their ranks have been growing. According to the International Labor Organization, the number of countries adopting paternity leave increased from 40 to 94 between 1994 and 2015.

Still, there are wide variations in the length and compensation of paternity leaves. Some OECD countries, for instance, offer no paternity leave at all. France, reports the Guardian, recently doubled its paternity leave to 28 days for new fathers.

In a measure voted last summer, European Union member countries will have until 2022 to adopt two weeks of paid parental leave for fathers, as a way to use legislation to set minimum rights for families.

The benefits of parental leave have been broadly documented, and include reducing the burden of unpaid care work on women, easing mothers’ reintegration into the workforce after birth and even reducing the chance of divorce for new parents.

Parental leave also ensures economic participation, a key indicator of equality outlined by the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, the World Economic Forum’s annual index tracking progress on global gender parity.

The vote reflects changing perceptions in gender dynamics said Philippe Gnaegi, director of advocacy group Pro Famila, as quoted in Swiss news site the The Local. “This result shows that society has evolved and that a model where women have to stay at home is no longer appropriate for the times.”

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