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Maternity and Paternity Leave in France: A Guide for Overseas Employers

When employees face the prospect of the birth of a child, naturally they will want to know how their employer will support them during this time.  While many companies will have generous internal policies for maternity and paternity leave, many countries also have statutory minimums that must be met regardless of company policies.

The primary questions are: 1) the amount of leave time 2) whether the leave is paid or unpaid and 3) the source of funds for paid leave.

If you are from a country where there are no leave entitlements, you should be prepared to meet host country requirements when hiring abroad.  France, as with many EU countries, provides a generous maternity/paternity leave entitlement for employees and those minimums must be met by employers.

Employers that are new to France should thoroughly research the leave entitlement amounts and be ready to accommodate employees who become new parents.  This guide will give you the basics, but you may also need local experts at some point to make sure that you are in compliance with French statutes.

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Maternity Leave in France

Leave Period

Maternity leave in France is 16 weeks for the first child, 16 weeks for the second and 26 weeks for their third child.  The leave period can begin up to 6 weeks before birth. 

A new mother is required to take at least 8 weeks of leave, which demonstrates that French laws do lean toward caring for employees with a newborn. 

What this means for the employer, is that they will have to find a way to fill the vacancy for at least two months during the mandatory leave period (however the employer may not recruit for a permanent replacement.)

Maternity Allowance

During maternity leave the employee receives an allowance equal to their average income over the three months preceding the birth, subject to a quarterly cap of EUR10,131.  The allowance is paid by French social security, provided that the employee worked 150 hours or more in the previous three months.  This does relieve the employer of the burden of paid leave expenses, while losing an employee for the leave period.

Termination Rules

It should be noted that an employee cannot be terminated for any reason while on maternity leave.  This prohibition also extends to pregnant employees and those returning from maternity leave for 10 weeks after restarting work.  There are two exceptions to the pregnancy/return to work rules which are either employee gross misconduct or impossibility to maintain the employment contract, as with redundancy.

Paternity/Partner Leave

The other type of leave for a birth is paternity leave for the partner/father. In France, paternity leave is 11 consecutive days for a single child, or 18 days for multiple birth.  The leave allowance is similar to that for maternity leave.  Same-sex female partners may claim paternity leave, but male partners may not.

Adoption Leave

Adoption leave is 10 weeks for a single child and 22 weeks for more than one adopted child, and the leave allowance can be shared equally between the two adopting parents.

Do you need more information about France?

These maternity/paternity leave requirements may leave you with more questions such as:

Is there additional unpaid leave available if an employee requests it?

Once an employee is beyond the paid leave period, is termination permissible?

Are the leave allowances taxable and subject to deductions for social contributions?

We respond to client inquiries like these every day, to ease the transition into hiring abroad, including running payroll, calculating deductions and extending lawful benefits.  We make international employment simple.

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