Fribourg to offer 8 weeks of paternity leave to city workers

Fribourg to offer 8 weeks of paternity leave to city workers

Following a vote in the General Council, those who work for the city of Fribourg will receive eight weeks of paid paternity leave in the future, up from the two weeks which is standard for fathers and partners across Switzerland. Supporters argue the move will mean a big step towards equality, while critics have cited concerns about staff shortages.

Parental leave extended to eight weeks for Fribourg city workers

By 53 votes to 12, lawmakers in the capital of Canton Fribourg voted in favour of a law proposed by the local Green Party which would extend parental leave rights for city workers. Under the plans, fathers and partners of expectant mothers who work for the city administration will receive 40 working days of paternity leave, up from the 10 days that is the standard across the country.

Speaking at the city parliament, the Green Party argued that “without adequate vacation, it is difficult to reorganise family life after a birth.” They noted that the postnatal period can be a time of great stress for new families, who have to balance careers with having to care for a newborn child - not helped by the fact that childcare services in Switzerland remain very expensive.

“Politics must support young families in such key moments,” Green city councillor Monica Mendez told the Tages-Anzeiger, adding that if they do nothing, “Equality would just remain a slogan.” Following the result, Fribourg is set to become the first city in Switzerland to expand parental leave so dramatically, albeit just for public sector workers.

Fribourg Mayor calls the city a left-wing pioneer

The extended parental leave plan capped off measures that Mayor Thierry Steiert (SP) argued made Fribourg “a left-wing pioneer city.” The last year has seen the city introduce complimentary public transport for young people, a 30-kilometre-an-hour speed limit on 60 percent of local roads, free sanitary products city-wide and pioneering menstrual leave for city workers. 

University of Fribourg political scientist Nicolas Hayoz went as far as to say that the city is a “political laboratory” for left-wing policies. “[It’s] fascinating”, he added.

Concerns how more parental leave will impact employee workloads

Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger, Steiert said that while he was “not against 40 days of paternity leave”, he wanted to point out, “in general enthusiasm”, that some issues may lie ahead. Chief among these was his concern that the increased paternity leave would lead to staff shortages that would force the city to either increase overtime or employ more workers on insecure temporary work contracts

Another issue could be more psychological, with a 2022 study from the Federal Social Insurance Office finding that up to 25 percent of new fathers in Switzerland choose to forgo paternity leave entirely. In the past, Swiss unions have accused businesses of pressuring their staff to forgo the benefit, an accusation firms deny.

Fribourg to focus on climate change and the environment

However, Steiert did allay fears over the price of the plan, estimating that it would cost the city 120.000 francs a year. He confirmed that the local council will now set its sights on a number of other issues, including climate change, water supply, energy, biodiversity and migration.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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