France doubles paid paternity leave to 28 days

France is doubling paid paternity leave for new fathers to 28 days, President Emmanuel Macron has announced.

Of this leave, seven days will be obligatory, the French leader said, adding that 80% of the French population agreed that the amount of time fathers were currently allowed off work was too short.

The Elysée said the move would bring the country in line with more generous legislation elsewhere in Europe. It is expected to cost the country’s social security system around €500,000 a year, double the current bill, and will come into effect next July.

In France, the first three days of paternity leave are paid for by the father’s employer and the rest by the state.

Companies that refuse to give new fathers the obligatory seven working days off will face fines of up to €7,500.

“This reform will move France from a mid-ranking position in Europe to being among the group of leading countries, including Spain, Sweden, Norway and Portugal,” the president’s office said.

“Time is an essential factor in establishing an important link between the child and the parents. The current 14-day period is too short,” the official added.

Macron set up a commission led by the well-known psychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik last November to examine a child’s first 1,000 days. The commission recommended nine weeks paternity leave.

“Doubling is already quite a large change in terms of cultural development and for the place of fathers with children,” the Elysée said.

A 14-day paternity leave was introduced in France in 2002 and was longer than many other European countries at the time.

French parents are also entitled to “parental leave” at the end of any maternity and paternity leave. This is available for all workers and starts at six months for a first child and up to three years if the couple has two or more children and the leave is divided between the two parents. Parental leave is not paid leave but the parents may be entitled to state benefits.

Sweden currently offers 60 days paternity leave paid at 80% of salary, Spanish fathers can take 12 weeks fully paid leave at present, but this will increase to 16 weeks next year. Finland offers 54 days, paid at 70% of salary. Portugal allows for 25 days at full pay, and Italy seven days at full pay.

In the UK, the law allows employees with at least 26 weeks employment to take two weeks maximum paid paternity leave, which is remunerated at either £148.68 per week or 90% of the father’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. There are other provisions: British parents may be eligible for shared parental leave and statutory shared parental pay, giving them the right to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between them.

Patrick Martin, the president of France’s business leaders’ organisation Medef, the equivalent of Britain’s CBI, said the measure was “good for society” but would cost French companies €300m a year.

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