New petition calls for prenatal maternity leave for Geneva public sector staff

New petition calls for prenatal maternity leave for Geneva public sector staff

A collection of unions and activist groups have submitted a new petition, calling for maternity leave to be extended in Geneva. The plans would see pregnant mothers working in the public sector given a month of leave before they give birth, with hopes that the idea could be rolled out nationwide in future.

Prenatal maternity leave: A first for Switzerland

Currently, while all cantons of Switzerland offer at least 16 weeks of paid maternity leave after the mother has given birth, there is no statutory requirement during the prenatal period. As a result, according to the Interprofessional Wokers’ Union, “90 percent of pregnant women stop working before the end of their pregnancy” and have to take sick leave to compensate for the lost hours.

Therefore, under the slogan “pregnancy is not an illness” the SSP, SIT and SEV trade unions and the Feminist Strike Collective have submitted a petition, demanding that pregnant mothers be given maternity leave before they give birth. The text itself proposes that women working in the public sector be given at least four weeks of statutory leave before childbirth, without any loss of salary.

Reliance on sick leave can catch out expectant mothers, supporters argue

The initiative noted that as sick leave in Switzerland is capped and based on the amount of time someone has worked, some mothers can be forced to take unpaid leave ahead of giving birth. They used the example of one woman, who was on sick leave for three months between July and October and became pregnant in August. As she had exhausted all her statutory sick leave, she was forced to take unpaid leave ahead of her delivery date in April.

Initiative supporter Sandra Froidevaux argued that “stress and overwork can lead to premature births”, adding that in countries with prenatal maternity leave, premature births have been reduced by 50 percent. Public Service Union secretary Aline Zuber added that Switzerland remains one of two European countries (alongside Cyprus) that does not have prenatal maternity cover.

Hopes to roll out prenatal maternity leave nationwide

While the text did not cite an exact figure, the report argued that the policy would not cost the Earth. It added that as the majority of public sector workers are 50 years old or older, the plan was “financially feasible.” In all, the proponents of the initiative hope that Geneva and the public sector will serve as a petri dish for the idea, which could then be made law for all people at the cantonal and eventually federal level. 

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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