Extending paternity leave in France: what we know

Une main de bébé tenant une main d'adulte


It’s now official: the duration of paternity leave will effectively double in France by July 2021. This new measure, announced by the government on September 22, is part of the Social Security Financing Bill (PLFSS). It will be examined by Parliament shortly. What are the characteristics of this new measure? What are the consequences for your company? A brief overview.

Extending paternity: the context of the reform

Nowadays, paternity leave has not always existed in France. Appearing at the time of the Liberation, the first birth leave was introduced thanks to the law of May 18, 1946. Lasting three days, they were for a long time the only paid rest days granted to young fathers.

It was not until January 1, 2002 that an eleven-day paternity leave was introduced to complement the three-day birth leave. It was an initiative of Ségolène Royal, then Minister Delegate for the Family.

Since then, paternity leave has remained stable at 14 days. This is a much shorter period than certain European practices. Norway, for example, already offers nearly 15 weeks of paternity leave, Finland 9, and Spain 8.

Alerted on this subject, child psychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik convened a commission of experts in 2019. This commission examined the conditions necessary for the proper development and construction of the child.

The conclusion of the report, submitted on September 8, is unanimous. Thus, during the child’s first 1,000 days, “it takes time, availability and physical and emotional closeness on the part of the parents to build a harmonious relationship with their baby”. Extended paternity leave then seems necessary, even decisive.

Extending paternity leave in practice

  • The duration of paternity leave will therefore increase from 14 to 28 days as of July 1, 2021. This includes birth leave and weekends.
  • All employees are eligible for this paternity leave. And this, regardless of the nature of the contract that binds them to their company (permanent, fixed-term, temporary, part-time, etc.).
  • Paternity leave is automatically granted to the child’s father, regardless of his family situation and his relationship with the mother. This leave also concerns all second parents, whether or not they are the child’s fathers. In the latter case, it will be necessary to justify his relationship with the child’s mother.
  • Employees are not the only beneficiaries of paternity leave. Self-employed workers, jobseekers and the liberal professions can already take advantage of this leave (1) at the present time.
  • Of these 28 days, 7 are now mandatory. Neither the young parent nor the employer can oppose it. This new condition is intended to promote social justice.

Who pays for paternity leave?

Paternity leave will follow the same daily compensation model as maternity leave. As this leave implies the (temporary) suspension of the employee’s employment contract, it is no longer financed by the company, which no longer pays a salary. Instead, the health insurance company will pay daily allowances to the parent (under certain conditions).

What are the benefits of paternity leave?

A German study shows that fathers who receive an eight-week leave :

  • Further strengthen their relationship with their child.
  • Lighten the mother’s mental load.
  • Are more confident as a parent and more understanding of household chores.

More available, fathers are better able to take care of the child and accompany the mother. By being present around the child during the first month, both parents can develop true co-parenting and establish a balanced division of tasks.

(1) Source: Ameli.fr
(2) According to Gabriel Attal, government spokesman, interviewed by the Journal des Femmes

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