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Swiss Maternity Benefits: Spending Time with Your Little One

Bringing a new life into the world is an experience like no other, and it’s nice to know that you’ll be able to spend some time with your new arrival without having to worry about money. The Swiss social security system provides new mothers with some time to take care of their newborn, all the while knowing that their job is secure.
Every mother wants to spend time with her newborn baby without worrying about work or money — especially when they move abroad.

At a Glance:

  • All new mothers in Switzerland are entitled to a minimum of 14 weeks’ paid maternity leave, provided they meet the requirements.
  • During their maternity leave, women in Switzerland can expect to receive up to 80% of their income in the form of a daily allowance capped at 196 CHF.
  • There is currently no law in Switzerland granting paternity leave to the partners of new mothers, despite persistent campaigning.

 

Paid maternity leave was finally introduced in Switzerland on 1 July 2005 — a full 60 years after Swiss citizens voted to include maternity benefits in the Swiss constitution. Maternity benefits (EO) are overseen by the Federal Social Insurance Office within the Federal Department of Home Affairs.

The EO benefit scheme is funded by the EO contributions towards the social security system that you are required to pay along with AHV/IV contributions for old-age pensions and disability benefits. At the time of writing (November 2016), the total EO contributions add up to 0.45% of your gross salary: you have to contribute half of the amount, and the other 50% is contributed by your employer. However, it is worth noting that anybody working in the public sector does not contribute to maternity benefit funding.

Maternity Benefits: A Legal Right

All mothers in Switzerland are entitled to claim maternity benefits, as long as they meet certain conditions:

  • They have been insured by an AHV policy — an insurance scheme for old-age, disability, and survivor’s pensions — or its local equivalent for at least nine months prior to the birth of the baby, either in Switzerland or any other EFTA/EU state.
  • They have worked for at least five months during their pregnancy.
  • At the time of birth, they are still employed, self-employed, or doing paid work at their spouse’s or a family member’s company. If not, then they must be receiving unemployment, sickness, accident, or disability benefits.

If they meet these conditions, women in Switzerland are entitled to claim maternity benefits for 14 weeks in total, starting on the day that the baby is born. If the new mother chooses to return to work before the full number of weeks has passed, she will lose her right to claim maternity benefits.

Plenty of Time with the New Baby

As a new mother in Switzerland, you are entitled to a minimum of 14 weeks (98 days) of maternity leave. Although you can extend this leave by two weeks, you will not be paid for this extra period. You do not have to take the full leave allowance, but the federal constitution states that mothers cannot work during the eight weeks following the birth of their child. If you return to work between the eighth and fourteenth week following the birth, you waive your rights to maternity compensation.

The Swiss constitution also ensures that your employer cannot terminate your employment contract during the 14 weeks of maternity leave, following the birth of the child.

If you cannot work in the weeks or months leading up to the birth and have a valid medical certificate to prove it, you will be excused from work on medical grounds. During this period of leave, you will continue to receive your full salary for a limited time.

If you have been working at the company for one year, you will keep receiving your full salary for up to three weeks. This period of time increases the longer you have worked for the same employer.

It’s Time to Talk Money: Maternity Pay

To make up for the earnings lost by new mothers during the time that they are on maternity leave, the Swiss social security system provides them with compensation. Maternity allowance is paid to new mothers in the form of a daily allowance and most women will receive 80% of the total wage that they earned before the birth of their child.

However, there is an upper limit to this figure. The maximum allowance a woman on maternity leave can receive is 196 CHF per day. Any employed woman in Switzerland who earns more than 7,350 CHF — or any self-employed woman earning over 88,200 CHF per year — will therefore receive less than 80% of her income from employment.

Bear in mind that any unexplained, unpaid leave before the birth of the child can reduce the amount of compensation that you are entitled to claim.

Unlike with maternity leave, you can extend your claim to maternity compensation for up to five full years after the end of your maternity leave. For more information on this, please see our article on family allowance.

Insurance Contributions

You also have to continue to pay contributions towards the Swiss social security system — i.e. AHV/IV/EO insurance — from your maternity benefits. Maternity benefits are considered income so, if you are an employee, you’ll also have to pay BVG (unemployment insurance) contributions.

If you are an employee, you automatically remain covered by your accident insurance plan, but you don’t have to pay contributions while you are on maternity leave. If your employer pays you any extra salary on top of your maternity allowance, they will have to pay accident insurance (UVG) contributions on any earnings exceeding your maternity allowance.

What If You Are Receiving Any Other Benefits?

If you are unemployed and receiving any benefits, your maternity allowance will always take precedence. For unemployed mothers who receive unemployment benefits, for example, they will receive their maternity benefits instead of unemployment benefits. However, at the very least they will always receive the same amount of maternity allowance as they were entitled to claim in unemployment benefits.

How to Claim Your Benefits

The way in which a woman can claim her maternity benefits depends on her employment status. If the mother is employed, she should submit the claim to compensation and leave through her employer, who will then pass the claim on to the relevant AHV compensation fund office. If the mother is self-employed or non-working, she will need to claim her compensation through the AHV compensation fund office directly.

How Will I Be Paid?

So long as you are still employed and entitled to a salary at the time of the birth, then all maternity benefits will be paid to you from the compensation fund through your employer. If you received your salary on a monthly or weekly basis, your maternity allowance will normally be paid to you in the same way.

If anything goes wrong — i.e. there are differences of opinion between you and your employer, or the company is declared bankrupt — the compensation fund will pay you your maternity allowance directly. The same goes for unemployed or self-employed mothers.

Expats will be happy to know that your maternity allowance can also be paid abroad if you decide to move after giving birth, provided that the new mother meets the requirements to receive the benefits in the first place.

But What about Paternity Leave…?

In April 2016, an initiative introducing the idea of two weeks’ paternity benefits for new fathers was rejected by the Swiss parliament. This means that there is no law in Switzerland granting leave to those whose partners have just had a baby.  Fathers are allowed to take one or two family days when the baby is born.

However, this is not to say that fathers will not be entitled to any leave. In some cases — particularly in the private sector — employers have outlined a father’s right to paternity leave in employment contracts. This leave allowance can range from three days to a week or even more. In any case, it’s best to check with your employer when your partner is expecting as you may be entitled to some additional paternity leave.

 

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