Parental leave in France: The nuts and bolts of paternity and maternity leave in France

Here's what you need to know to keep your company compliant.

Woman laughing and holding a baby

Irrespective of your internal policies, if you're hiring employees based out of France, you should know what they are legally entitled to when they become parents.

You can't simply assume that the laws governing parental leave in France are like those of your country. Even if your business operates from another European nation.

Case in point, out of 28 countries in the European Union (EU)—still 28 at the time of the survey—11 don't give parental leave to partners in same-sex marriages. But France does. Tiny differing details like this are why it's always great to get a refresher on all things paternity and maternity leave in France.

Read on to find out all you need to know about parental leave in France and its attendant benefits for your eligible employees.

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The basics of parental leave in France 

Parental leave policies vary among most European countries. However, the EU expects all members to abide by the minimum standards of Directive 92/85/EEC (for pregnant workers) and Directive (EU) 2019/1158 (the right to paid maternal leave and parental leave).

France is no different.

And it has been a proponent of maternity leave regulations for a while now. In 1946, France passed a law granting women a 14-week maternity leave and compensation for half of their earnings lost while away from work.

Fast forward to the present, expecting mothers get 16 weeks off—six weeks before birth and 10 weeks after. Fathers get up to 25 days of paternity leave—four days of compulsory leave taken immediately after childbirth and 21 days which the father can take within six months of delivery. 

Adopting parents aren't left out. If adopting a single child, the parents can apply for 10 weeks of parental leave or 22 weeks if adopting more than one child. In this scenario, the parents are expected to share the daily leave allowance. 

To claim parental leave in France, the parents must:

  • Be enrolled with the Social Security Authority (SSA) at least 10 months before the date of childbirth
  • Have taken a minimum of 8 weeks leave
  • Have worked at least 150 hours in the 90 days before the start of their leave

Maternity leave in France

Like most members of the EU, every expectant mother is eligible for paid maternity leave in France. However, the length of maternity leave will depend on the number of children the mother is expecting and how many other kids she already has.

Before we get into the specifics, note that the employee must inform their employer of the pregnancy and projected end of maternity leave via a registered letter or verbally. It's always best if the notice comes in written form, as the employer can then issue a receipt acknowledging the employee's notice.

This can serve as a legal document if there's any form of misunderstanding.

How long is maternity leave in France?

Stylized text that says "length of maternity leave in France"

Let's get into the nitty-gritty of the different possible scenarios and the number of maternity leave days the mother is entitled to in each case.

For women expecting one child and fewer than two dependent children, the French policy grants them a six-week leave before childbirth (prenatal) and a 10-week leave after birth (postnatal). If there are serious prenatal conditions (such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes), the mother can get an additional two weeks of prenatal leave.

And if childbirth leads to health complications, the employee is entitled to four additional weeks of postnatal leave. That's a total of 14-weeks postnatal leave.

If the mother is expecting her third child, she has the right to eight weeks of prenatal leave and 18 weeks of postnatal leave. These numbers stay the same for subsequent childbirths.

For those expecting twins, they get 12 weeks of prenatal and 22 weeks of postnatal. If triplets or more, prenatal goes up to 24 weeks. Postnatal stays the same.

The law also covers cases of premature childbirth that's over six weeks before the expected delivery date and where the newborn is compulsorily hospitalized. The difference between the delivery date and the original start date of the six-week prenatal leave becomes part of the postnatal leave.

On the other hand, if there's late delivery, the postnatal leave begins on the actual delivery date.

Parents who already have at least two dependents before adoption benefit from an extra eight-week leave. This is asides from the initial 10 weeks. If the parents share the parental leave, the government extends the duration by 11 days (for a single adoption) and 18 days (for multiple adoptions).

What is the allowance for maternity leave?

During maternity leave, the law considers the employee's employment contract suspended. The French SSA handles all payments going forward if the employee meets the eligibility criteria. 

The employer is under no legal obligation to pay the mother. 

The leave allowance is calculated by adding the employee's gross salaries of the last three months before the maternity leave and dividing the sum by 91.5. Employees receive their accrued daily benefits every 14 days after the government deducts 21% of earnings for taxes and social contributions.

Daily wages can't be more than €89.03 or less than €9.66. The maximum monthly payment is €3,428.

At the end of the maternity leave, employees return to their previous job, or a similar role, without any remuneration changes. If other employees got a pay rise while the parent was off, it must be extended to the mother from the date they return to work. 

In addition, the French law mandates additional employment protection of four weeks after the end of the maternity or adoption leave. 

Paternity leave in France

In September 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron announced an extension in the duration of paternity leave.

Fathers or second parents of a biological or adopted child would be able to access a 25-day parental leave—a four-day compulsory leave taken right away after childbirth, and a 21-day leave that the father accesses anytime within six months of the baby's birth.

In the event of multiple births (twins or triplets), the 21-day leave becomes a 28-day paternity leave.

Paternity leave previously stood at 11 consecutive days for one child or 18 days for multiple kids. The new law came into effect on July 1, 2021. The policy also applies to the second parent in same-sex couples (male or female).

Here are the essentials of the new paternity leave law.

How long is paternity leave in France?

Immediately after childbirth, the father goes on a mandatory three-day birth leave covered by their employer (only working days). At the end of the third day, the four-day compulsory paternity leave covered by the new policy kicks in.

The father can then choose to take the 21-day leave (or 28-day leave period) in two installments. Each leave installment must be a minimum of five days.

For example, the father can split the remaining 21 days into two periods of five and 16 days or five and 23 days if it's multiple births. In situations where the doctor places the newborn under hospitalization, the father's four-day leave period lasts for the period of hospitalization up to a limit of 30 consecutive calendar days.

The father can forgo the 21-day post-childbirth leave. But should they decide to take it, the father must notify the employer one month before the start date of the leave period. As with maternity leave, written notices are always best.

What is the allowance for paternity leave?

The French government expects the employer to pay employees for the first three days while covering the leave allowance for the remaining period.

Allowances are calculated similarly to maternity leave allowances (sum of last three gross salaries before childbirth divided by 91.25). The leave allowance is subject to a quarterly limit set by the SSA—€10,284.

Tax and social contributions (capped at a flat rate of 21% like maternity leave) are deducted from the paternity leave allowance before the SSA pays out the allowance to the father.

Where can I go if I have more questions about parental leave in France when hiring employees?

An obvious place to go is the French public service website.

This is probably the most comprehensive resource on French parental leave. However, it can be a tad overwhelming. The official European Union website also contains loads of information on maternity and paternity leave in France.

For people leaders of distributed teams, global HR compliance experts such as Oyster are another great option.

If you toe this path, you are guaranteed a team of legal and HR experts who do all the heavy lifting to understand the law while you focus on what matters—providing a great employee experience for your new hires.

Parental leave in France isn't complicated if you have the correct information

The correct information can be the difference between a compliant global employment force and legal issues. Plus, it's the right thing to do.

You can prove to your top talent that you have their best interest at heart by making sure they can participate to the fullest in the parental leave regulations of their home country. By engaging experts who understand the lay of the land, you should seamlessly handle hiring top talent from France without breaking a sweat.

For more on how to hire and pay employees in France, take a look at our France hiring guide

About Oyster 

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop and take care of a thriving global workforce. It lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.

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