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PARENTING

How does paternity leave work in Switzerland – and who can claim it?

Paternity leave is approved in Switzerland, but not all fathers can claim the benefit. Here’s what you need to know.

How does paternity leave work in Switzerland - and who can claim it?
Switzerland voted in support of paternity leave. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland’s Autumn referendums were held on September 27th, 2020, with voters deciding five important questions. 

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland voted in Sunday’s referendums 

The voting hinted at a shift in Switzerland’s rather traditional approach to family models and gender roles, with more than 60 percent of ballots cast in favour of offering paternity leave for the first time.

Philippe Gnaegi, director of Pro Famila, said the result showed a shift in gender dynamics in Switzerland. 

“This result shows that society has evolved and that a model where women have to stay at home is no longer appropriate for the times.” 

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said the high turnout and strong majority for the vote showcased how important it was to modern Switzerland. 

“Very good news for families,” Berset said. 

The plan is expected to cost the Swiss government CHF230 million per year. 

Adrian Wuthrich, head of the trade union federation Travailsuisse and a supporter of the paternity leave push, hailed Sunday’s result. 

New fathers “finally get more time off than they would for a move,” he told the RTS public broadcaster, stressing though that two weeks should be seen as a minimum.

The battle for parental leave

Switzerland, which did not grant women the right to vote until 1971, still lags behind much of Europe when it comes to parental leave.

Several attempts to grant paternity leave to fathers have failed. 

While some companies and public sector employers have parental leave schemes which allow fathers to take periods of time off, there was no federally mandated minimum leave period. 

The country first introduced 14 weeks paid maternity leave in 2005 and has until now offered no paternity leave, with new fathers legally entitled to take only one day — the same amount of time granted when moving house.

The Swiss parliament gave the green light for the two-weeks paternity leave last September, but (SVP) and other opponents had gathered enough signatures to put the issue to a referendum, arguing that taxpayers should not be asked to cover “holidays” for new fathers.

How does paternity leave look in Switzerland – and who can claim it?

Paternity leave, like maternity leave, offers Swiss parents 80 percent of their salary, up to a ceiling of 196 Swiss francs per day.

The money will be paid under the state-run compensation scheme. 

Fathers can thus receive a maximum of 2,744 Swiss francs ($3,000, 2,550 euros) during their two weeks of leave.

The ‘two weeks’ is actually ten days, but when taken with weekends it works out to a 14-day period. 

The days do not however all need to be taken at once. As reported in Swiss daily 20 Minutes, fathers could elect to take one day off per week for ten weeks. 

The leave must be taken during the first six months of the child’s life. 

Only biological fathers are entitled to claim the leave. 

Fathers will be eligible for the benefit after five months of working in Switzerland, and must have made at least nine months of contributions to the Swiss pension scheme. 

The scheme has applied from January 1st, 2021, meaning it will not be available for fathers of babies born before that date. 

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CHILDCARE

How to save money on childcare in Zurich

Zurich is Switzerland's most populous canton and one of the most expensive. Here's how to save a little on childcare.

How to save money on childcare in Zurich
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

The high costs of childcare are a frequent complaint of many a parent in Switzerland.

While this of course varies dramatically from canton to canton, the average cost of a day of childcare in Switzerland is CHF130.

The average Swiss family spends a massive 41 percent of their net income on childcare, three times the OECD average of 13 percent.

READ MORE: What is emergency childcare in Switzerland and how do I access it?

When paired with the cost of having children in Switzerland, it’s enough to make someone decide against having kids – or maybe leaving Switzerland altogether.

Tax

Keep in mind with all of these tips that you are able to deduct childcare costs from your tax in Switzerland.

This includes most forms of childcare, including for instance the costs of a private nanny.

In order to do so, you need to provide proof of payment when lodging your tax return.

Parents can deduct a maximum of 10,100 francs per child per year (federal tax), according to Swiss finance comparison site Comparis.

More information about how to deduct childcare costs from your tax can be found at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Switzerland?

Leaving the kids with the grandparents may be a more difficult solution for some expats. Photo by Nikoline Arns on Unsplash

Second hand

One of the silver linings to Switzerland’s wealth is that it has a lot of wealthy people, who seem not to mind how much things cost.

As a consequence, there are often great deals on second-hand stuff for kids.

If you send your kid to a creche, they may ask you to provide a range of different things like clothes, umbrellas and other weather equipment and small nap mats or even a basic crib.

VERDICT: How to save money when raising children in Switzerland

Obviously this stuff is expensive, particularly if you’ve already bought it for home.

Remember in this case that eBay is your friend, while you can also check notice boards at the childcare facility itself to see if other parents have stuff to give away.

One inside tip is to change the postcode in your eBay search to a wealthier one, thereby improving your chances of finding a bargain. 

Subsidies

When you learn that parents in Switzerland often spend 130 francs a day per child for childcare, you might feel like it’s time for a career change.

But due to the aforementioned tax breaks and subsidies paid out in the cantons, many parents will pay between 30 and 80 percent of this cost.

In Zurich for instance, if you earn 80,000 per year, you will be liable for around 70 francs per day.

Here is the calculator for Zurich which will tell you how much your subsidy will be on the basis of your income. 

Take time off

Of course, less childcare is always going to be cheaper – so if you can work out a solution where you or your partner takes care of the kids for some of the time, then you’ll already be saving (other than of course the lost wages). 

After birth, Switzerland has a moderate parental leave scheme, but the conditions offered by private companies are often better. 

Keep in mind that your child will be able to attend pre-school or kindergarten from around four years of age. While pre-school is not compulsory, around 99 percent of Swiss kids attend it.

In Switzerland, children can start attending school from around six years of age, with cantons required to offer at least one year of pre-school education.

This does of course depend on the canton, with some offering two years and Ticino offering three.

If you can take advantage of flexible work, then you might be able to take a couple of years off to take care of the kids and go back to work when your kid hits pre-school age.

READ MORE: How to save money on childcare in Switzerland

You can also bite the bullet and call up the grandparents, if of course they live in Switzerland. You’ll have the kids back punctually and with a Swiss dialect in no time. 

But if that’s not an option, then you need to consider the different types of childcare.

While most of us would think of a nursery or a creche as the standard, there are in fact several forms of childcare which are common in Switzerland.

This of course includes nurseries, but also extends to childminders (Tagesmütter or mamans de jour), babysitters, au pairs and private nannies.

More information as to the types of childcare available in Zurich can be found at the following link. 

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