French fathers to get more time off under parental leave reform

French lawmakers voted late on Monday to reform the country’s policy on parental leave by extending the amount of time fathers can take off work to spend with their children, and giving greater incentives for them to do so.


Under the reform, families with one child, who are already entitled to six months unpaid parental leave, will be allowed an additional six months for the second parent. For families with two children, the maximum parental leave will remain three years, as long as six months of that time is reserved for the second parent.

If not, then the maximum leave one parent can take from his or her job will be shaved down to two-and-a-half years.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France’s minister of women’s rights, said that it was time for the country to “change the way it looks [at parental leave]”.

As it stands, French mothers take far more time off with their children. Of the 540,000 parents who take advantage of the country’s generous parental leave policies, only 18,000 are men. Vallaud-Belkacem hopes that the reform will increase the number of fathers who take a break from their careers to 100,000 over the next two years.

Not everyone was in favour of the measure. A number of opposition lawmakers from the conservative UMP party tried, unsuccessfully, to have the measure stricken from the bill, arguing that it was a government intrusion into couples’ private lives and freedoms.

The majority of the party, however, said they generally supported the idea of shared parental leave, despite reservations over how it will be applied.

The reform, which has already been approved by the Senate, is part of a broader bill on gender equality. Lawmakers will vote Tuesday on a amendment to the country’s abortion legislation, which would make it easier for women to terminate a pregnancy if she chooses to.

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