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June 06, 2023

Switzerland: Overview of Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Leave under Swiss Law

Phillippe Nordman


A current and much-discussed topic in Switzerland revolves around legally anchored leave for newly parents. As recently as September 27, 2020, the Swiss electorate voted in favor of the introduction of two weeks paternity leave in a referendum with a majority of 60.34%. Previously, Swiss law already knew a legally regulated maternity leave of 14 weeks. As of January 1, 2023, employees who take in a child under the age of four for adoption are also entitled to two weeks of leave, which may be taken within the first year of adoption. In addition, employers may provide for more extensive leave entitlements in employment contracts on a voluntary basis.

Maternity Leave

In Switzerland, mothers who had been subject to compulsory pension insurance for at least nine months before the birth and worked for at least five months during the pregnancy are entitled to 14 weeks of maternity leave. This is subject to the further condition that they were still pursuing a job at the time of giving birth. During the 14 weeks of maternity leave, 80% of the salary is covered by a state insurance scheme. Under certain circumstances, maternity leave may be extended by a maximum of eight additional weeks.

By law, mothers are prohibited from returning to work during the first eight weeks after giving birth. If work is resumed after said eight weeks (full-time or part-time) but before 14 weeks have elapsed, the entitlement to further maternity leave will be lost.

Paternity Leave

Since January 1, 2021, fathers having been compulsorily insured for old-age benefits during nine months prior to the birth and employed for at least five months during the mother's pregnancy, have been entitled to two weeks of paternity leave as well. The prerequisite here – besides pursuing a job at the time of the birth – is that the father is actually the legal father of the child. In the event of unmarried parents, the child must be legally acknowledged by the father.

As regards maternity leave, 80% of the salary during the two weeks in question is covered by a state insurance scheme. As opposed to maternity leave, paternity leave may be taken as a block or interspersed with work days without losing the entitlement.

Leave for adopting parents

Leave for adopting parents was introduced on January 1, 2023. Working parents will be entitled to a two-week adoption leave if they take in a child under the age of four for adoption, to be taken within the first year of adoption. Provided that both parents have a job, they are free to divide the two weeks between them so long as they do not take their leaves simultaneously. If only one of the adoptive parents meets the requirements, the other one will miss out on his/ her entitlement to parental leave.

In the event of adoption leave, 80% of the salary will be covered by a state insurance scheme. Yet, only around 30 children under the age of four are adopted in Switzerland in total each year.


Only recently has the Federal Commission for Family Affairs proposed that parental leave be increased from today's total of 16 weeks (14 weeks maternity leave, two weeks paternity leave) to a total of 38 weeks, whereby the entitlement to 38 weeks should be conditional on the father taking at least 15 weeks of paternity leave. Otherwise, the entitlement to parental leave is to lapse. The Commission’s proposal has sparked renewed debate in Switzerland about the scope of parental leave and its cost-benefit ratio for the economy. For example, the Commission's proposal has been strongly criticized by the employers' association.

Even though a statutory paternity leave has been introduced as of January 1, 2021, the discussion about a general parental leave will likely continue in Switzerland in the years ahead, particularly in light of the fact that overall maternity and paternity leave in Switzerland is still substantially shorter than in the surrounding European countries.

Phillippe Nordman

Dr. Iur., LL.M., Attorney at Law, Partner

Walder Wyss Ltd.

Basel, Switzerland

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