Cabinet calls for paid maternity leave

The cost of maternity leave could fall on employers under a new proposal being put forward by the Swiss cabinet Keystone

The cabinet has put forward a proposal to introduce paid maternity leave for all working women. The move comes two years after the Swiss rejected a similar proposal in a nationwide vote.

This content was published on June 15, 2001 - 14:56

Under the plan, the cost of maternity leave would be paid for by employers. The government estimates that it would total between SFr465 million ($264 million) and SFr535 million a year.

The proposal was mooted in April, but drew widespread criticism from employers and parliamentarians at the time. However, the cabinet does not believe that a modified version would have a chance at the polls.

The cabinet has settled on two alternatives for paid maternity leave. The cheaper one would entitle women to take between eight and 14 weeks around the time of birth, depending on their length of service at a company. The other proposes giving women 12 weeks paid leave, irrespective of how long they have worked for an employer.

The government admits that either scheme could exert downward pressure on salaries, especially for women of childbearing age, even though employers could take out private insurance to cover the costs.

The current labour law guarantees women a salary for a number of weeks if they cannot work because of sickness, accidents, pregnancy or childbirth.

How long new mothers can stay away from work and still draw a salary, though, depends on their length of service. All women are compelled to take eight weeks of maternity leave, but whether they are paid during this time is up to their employer.

Geneva is the only canton to have introduced statutary maternity benefits, and that was rushed through after the federal referendum in 1999.

Employers currently spend SFr411 million on maternity leave.

The proposals have been submitted for consultation until September.

swissinfo with agencies

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