The decision was kept short on Wednesday evening, April 27, 2016, when the National Council voted two weeks' paternity leave. The opponents of FDP and SVP were in the lead with 97 votes and the supporters received only 90 votes – partly because the CVP did not support the parliamentary initiative, although it came from its own ranks, from the Bündner Nationalrat Martin Candinas.
It has not only been two good years since then, but political pressure has also increased: last summer a broad alliance of trade unions, family organizations and men's and women's organizations submitted their citizens' initiative "For a wise paternity leave – for the benefit of the whole family".
SP supports counter proposals
In this context, the proposal for a Papi period of two weeks is now back on the table, as an indirect counter proposal to the request of the initiators after four weeks. The social security and health committee of the Council of States (SGK-S) wants to draw up a detailed legislative proposal. According to the basic values, the two weeks must be taken once or daily in the first six months after the birth of the child. The financing takes place via the Occupational Replacement scheme (EO), which also pays wage loss in case of compulsory employment and motherhood. According to federal calculations, paternity leave of two weeks would cost CHF 224 million, compared with CHF 449 million in the four weeks of the popular initiative (introduction from 2021).
The fact that the debate revolves around a two-week holiday for new fathers is due to an alliance of CVP and SP. Somewhat surprisingly, the Social Democratic Council of States also approved the indirect counter-proposal in the Commission. After all, links actually support the demand for four weeks of popular initiative. SP Council of States Hans Stöckli (Bern) does not want to determine how he would decide between counter-proposal and popular initiative – between the sparrow in hand and the pigeon on the roof, so to speak. There are still too many questions open.
It is still unclear whether the indirect counter-proposal survives the next step. For now the responsible National Council Committee must agree with the benchmarks of SGK-S. It is still unclear whether this will be the Social Commission (SGK-N) or the Education Committee (WBK-N). Because in the National Council SVP and FDP together have a small majority, the idea of the State Commission could be quickly terminated.
If the indirect counter-proposal succeeds in giving detailed advice, the question arises whether the promoters withdraw their referendum. Because only with this step the two weeks get a broader support – possibly in the FDP. But such retreat is uncertain, as Adrian Wüthrich, SP National Council and Chairman of the Initiative Committee says. Although it is positive that the SGK-S recognizes that there is a need for paternity leave. "But our four-week paternity leave initiative has already been launched as a pragmatic and financially viable compromise," says Wüthrich. That is why most of the initiators are hardly willing to withdraw.
The decision of SGK-S for two weeks of daddy's time, funded by the EO, as the Candinas has already proposed, is also a decision against the model of parental leave of the FDP. She wanted to introduce a total of 16 weeks of parental leave, which father and mother can share among themselves, with a minimum of eight weeks for the mother. At the same time, the FDP called for a counter-financing to compensate for the extra costs.
The FDP faction had presented its proposal only in early June and tried to position itself with a new approach. "We wanted to show what a solution should look like from a liberal point of view," says FDP alderman Andrea Caroni (Appenzell Ausserrhoden). But there are many in the group that would have reluctantly supported the proposal. Even for Caroni itself, a switchover to the two weeks of SGK-S is excluded: "Without counter financing and flexibility I can not support paternity leave financed by the government."
Sympathy for parental leave
The fact that the FDP once presented its own proposal is also because the liberal electorate, at least in urban areas and in western Switzerland, feel rather sympathetic to parental leave. Beat Habegger, vice president of FDP, the leader of the city of FDP and leader of the FDP city, speaks of a "need of the hour." The compatibility of family and work is a big problem, he says. The care system wins in sympathy with a reasonable amount of funding.
Possibly the sympathy of some FDP voters goes even further. How much would an indirect counter-proposal support or the citizens' initiative is unclear. A parliamentarian, however, believes that even a third of FDP delegates could even win a yes against the popular initiative in a slogan version.