Men refusing Swiss paternity leave over fears of being fired, association claims
According to the Federal Social Insurance Office (BSV), up to 25 percent of new fathers choose to forgo paternity leave in Switzerland. Travail Suisse, an employees' association, claimed that employers are putting pressure on workers to forgo the privilege, an accusation small business leaders vehemently deny.
Families have been able to claim paternity leave in Switzerland since 2021
Since the beginning of 2021, families in Switzerland have been able to benefit from two weeks of paternity leave. During those 10 days of paid leave, fathers are compensated with 80 percent of their salary, up to a maximum of 196 francs a day.
A new report by the BSV has found that they paid out 65.300 allowances - worth a total of 153 million francs - to new parents in 2021. However, this means only 70 percent of fathers whose children were born in Switzerland actually take advantage of the leave.
The BSV said that between 15 to 25 percent of new dads are choosing to not even apply for the scheme. When asked by 20 minuten, the government said that it could not explain why these fathers reject the time off.
Lack of information available for fathers wanting to take Swiss parental leave
One theory, according to Travail Suisse, is that employers have not been clear enough about whether they are entitled to the time off, and whether it can be refused. The organisation claims that employers have been pressuring men to forego the leave, with many fathers saying that they feared losing their job if they chose to take the time off, particularly in smaller businesses.
In a statement, the organisation said they had received 80 phone calls from fathers asking whether they are entitled to the time off, whether their employers can say no and who can decide when the leave starts. The "Barometer Gute Arbeit" report, released last year, said that over half of male employees under 45 years old were not informed about parental leave by their employers.
"It's gratifying that 70 percent of fathers have chosen to take the leave," noted the head of equality and compatibility policy at Travail Suisse, Valérie Borioli Sandoz.“Now we have to make sure that the rest of the group gets their due and doesn't give up for fear of being fired or because they don't know." Those in need of specific information are advised to check the official government website.
Small business association in Switzerland denies workers have been misled
In response to the allegations, Roland M. Rupp, the president of the Swiss SME Association - an organisation for small and medium enterprises - said that "it is definitely not true that SMEs did not provide enough information about paternity leave." He explained that entrepreneurs with only three to five workers cannot be expected to provide up-to-date information about every legal change, claiming that it was up to fathers to find out whether they are eligible for parental leave.
He said that he had never personally heard of employers putting pressure on men to forgo the leave, as the practice is not legal. He argued that for businesses with fewer than 10 employees - which make up 88 percent of companies in Switzerland - many cannot afford to encourage men to take the time off as, in the words of 20 minuten, “the company often stands still” without them.