New expanded parental leave in Geneva explained

New expanded parental leave in Geneva explained

Voters in Geneva have approved a plan to completely overhaul and expand parental leave in the city. Under the scheme, Geneva will become the first Swiss canton to extend paid leave for families beyond 18 weeks and provide flexible options for all combinations of new parents.

Geneva lawmakers hail Swiss first for parental leave

“It's a Swiss first. We participated in writing history!” Aurélien Barakat, president of the Geneva Green Liberals (GLP), declared after 57,9 percent of voters approved the “For parental leave now!” popular initiative on June 18. According to Manuelle Pernoud, vice president of the GLP in the city, the proposal is designed to give parents - especially fathers and partners - more time to emotionally connect with their children. "It's a victory for everyone," she told 20 Minuten.

Social Democratic Grand Councillor Thierry Apothéloz added that the plan is “a real step forward for families, for reconciling professional and private lives, and also for the diversity of family models." The idea was also backed by employers, with SRF correspondent Urs Gigen calling it a “comparatively moderate proposal” when previous ideas are borne in mind. 

According to Swissinfo, the initiative's main opponents were elements of left-wing groups, who accused lawmakers of not going far enough. Speaking to SRF, opponents argued that the current plan gives “no actual right to parental leave”, alluding to the fact that despite being in place for years, 25 percent of men actually avoid taking parental leave for fear of losing their jobs.

Guide to the new maternity and paternity leave rules in Geneva

With the passing of the proposal, Geneva is one step closer to implementing what has been named by the media as one of the most generous parental leave schemes in Switzerland. For all the soon-to-be parents out there, here’s what you need to know.

What are the current laws on parental leave in Switzerland?

Currently, women across the alpine nation are entitled to 16 weeks of maternity leave, to be taken after the child is born and registered. While cantonal interpretations vary, as of 2021, the partner of the person who is pregnant is also entitled to two weeks off work.

Couples offered up to 24 weeks of leave in Geneva

Under the new plans, mothers in Geneva will still be entitled to at least 16 weeks of maternity leave, while partners will see their leave increased to a minimum of six weeks. Couples will also be able to transfer up to two weeks of their leave to each other as they see fit.

What’s more, an extra two weeks of leave - which once formed paternity leave - can also be freely divided up between couples. This will lead to a maximum of 24 weeks of leave that couples can use to care for their child.

Who can benefit from the new parental leave?

The new law in Geneva grants parental leave to all couples, regardless of whether they are heterosexual, same-sex, or any other combination. Those who have adopted a child will be given the same entitlements as couples who have gone through pregnancy.

Who will pay for it?

In terms of financing, the extra leave will be paid for by companies - if the plan proceeds in its current form, workers will see no increase on their tax returns.

Geneva parental reform to be drafted soon

Despite being approved by voters, the popular initiative remains an “instruction” - meaning it will now be up to the Grand Council of Geneva to create legislation that will make the proposal a reality. What’s more, several questions remain on the table, with 20 Minuten noting that lawmakers are still fleshing out the core of the initiative - a move which could attract some opposition, especially when it comes to whether workers should help foot the bill for the extra leave.

Second, many in the chamber are concerned about the current wording of the referendum: Apothéloz noted that elements of the initiative are still unclear and need to be fleshed out, such as the official minimum duration of maternity leave. Finally, once the Grand Council has finished and approved the plan, it will be sent to Bern to make sure the proposal complies with federal law.

For more information about the proposal, check out the official website (in French).

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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