GENEVA – Swiss petitioners have successfully collected enough signatures to launch a nationwide referendum that would grant new fathers at least 20 days of paid paternity leave, up from one day today, the government said Thursday.
The issue strikes at the heart of the work-life balance debate and would put Switzerland in line with more generous paternity leave in other parts of Western Europe, like France and Germany.
The government said that petitioners who launched the signature drive in July had met the requirement for at least 100,000. Voters in Switzerland are regularly called to cast ballots on major political decisions as part of the Alpine nation’s form of direct democracy.
Parliament will now decide when the referendum can take place, though a vote is not likely for months.
A group behind the push, whose name translates as “Paternity Leave Now!”, wants paternity leave benefits to be modeled on the Swiss maternity leave system that grants 14 weeks to new mothers at 80 percent of their salaries.
Maternity leave is paid out of funds from payroll taxes.
A government study from 2013 found the annual cost, if all new fathers were to take paternity leave, would some 380 million francs (about $395 million) per year, the group said. It also said a 2011 poll found that 90 percent of Swiss fathers want more time and flexibility to spend time with their children.