7 facts to know about maternity leave in France

August 9, 2022

maternity leave france

Considering hiring in France? French employees have access to numerous minimum employee benefits, one of which is maternity and paternity leave.

France offers generous options and protections, providing employees with guaranteed compensation and time off when they give birth to or adopt a child. However, specific leave benefits may differ based on a variety of employee circumstances.

If your company plans to hire workers in France, here are seven facts you’ll have to consider when evaluating your compliance with the local parental leave regulations and entitlements.

What is maternity leave?

Maternity leave—or, more broadly speaking, parental leave—refers to an employee’s temporary absence from work before, during or after having a child. Historically, parental leave was only available to expectant mothers. However, many countries—France included—now guarantee parental leave to mothers, fathers and adoptive parents, and each group is guaranteed different minimum leave times.

7 considerations for parental leave in France

Let’s explore some of the specifics of France’s parental leave benefits.

1. France provides both maternity and paternity leave

French maternity leave regulations ensure that expectant mothers receive certain benefits when birthing or adopting a child. The maternity leave policy stipulates that:

  • French businesses guarantee their employees time off to prepare for, complete and recover from childbirth.
  • The employee will receive an agreed-upon wage during their time away from work.
  • The employee’s job will still be available for them when they return, as long as they comply with legal parameters.

However, birthing or adoptive mothers aren’t the only French employees guaranteed leave. In July 2021, a new law established paternity leave for French fathers as well.

This inclusion is important, and provides a few key benefits to parents welcoming a child:

  • It guarantees both parents compensation while they adjust to their new routine.
  • The law allows both parents to be present in the early days of child-rearing.
  • If the birthing parent or the pregnant woman experiences major health issues during or after birth, their partner can care for the newborn while they recover.

Mothers receive a mandatory minimum of 16 weeks, and fathers receive 11 consecutive days of medical leave or 22 days in the event of a twin birth.

2. France’s maternity and paternity leave laws align with EU requirements

Since France is a member of the European Union (EU), French workers and employees working for French companies are entitled to the same maternity and paternity benefits stipulated throughout the EU.

Some highlights of EU parental leave laws include:

  • Transferability. If an employee seeking leave benefits contributed to a national benefits program somewhere else in the EU before relocating to France, their specific circumstances will be considered to determine a fair and legal leave arrangement.
  • Eligibility. EU workers are eligible for parental leave as long as they are employed in the EU before the pregnancy, or they can prove stable and lawful residence. EU citizens are only entitled to parental leave wages if they’ve paid into a social security program or have worked a certain number of hours before leave begins.

3. Employees are entitled to benefits in kind

In France, benefits in kind refers to specific medical compensation offered by the government. These are stipulated in France’s maternity and paternity insurance policies.

These benefits reimburse parents for the following:

  • Any required medical examinations or procedures related to pregnancy
  • Costs incurred throughout the third trimester until the 12th day after childbirth
  • 70% of the cost of the first two ultrasound scans

In addition, France’s maternity and paternity health insurance policies exempt parents from co-payments for medical services and the €1 minimum payment for medical services. In the third trimester, parents are also exempt from paying pregnancy-related drug, paramedic and transportation costs.

In order to be eligible for maternity or paternity insurance, the mother’s medical provider must submit a declaration of pregnancy by the end of the first trimester.

While French employers don’t pay for benefits in kind, employees contribute to insurance programs and social security through their employer in the form of payroll taxes. Thus, businesses must ensure that their employees contribute sufficient funds to cover legally protected leave.

4. During maternity or paternity leave, employees can receive cash benefits

French citizens receive cash benefits throughout the duration of their maternity or paternity leaves, which take two forms:

  • Reimbursements for medical costs that aren’t covered by maternity or paternity insurance
  • Wage payments during employee leave

While the French government provides reimbursements for medical costs, employers must pay employees’ wages during their parental leave. In order to qualify for cash benefits, employees must show either:

  • That their contributions to the French social security system are equal to the compensation they’ll receive during leave
  • Documentation of hours worked that equal their expected leave pay or leave duration

In the event that an employee doesn’t meet the requirements for paid parental leave, employers may choose to negotiate a parental leave salary agreement that’s beneficial for both parties.

5. Adoptive parents also receive maternity and paternity benefits

Paternal leave benefits also apply to adoptive parents in France. The compensation benefits are the same as birth parents, but minimum leave times differ:

  • Adoptive mothers are entitled to 10 weeks of paid leave if they adopt one child.
  • Mothers adopting more than one child are eligible for 22 weeks of paid leave.
  • If fathers also request adoptive leave, the duration is extended by 11 days if the couple adopts one child, and 18 days if they adopt more than one child.

In addition, families who already have at least two dependent children before the adoption date are entitled to 18 weeks of paid parental leave.

While birth parents often use some of their leave time before their due date, all parents eligible for parental leave may distribute their leave as they please. Thus, adoptive parents may begin their leave before their adoption date to prepare, or they can use all of their leave after the adoption is complete.

6. French mothers can receive up to 26 weeks of leave

According to French law, birth mothers are eligible for different leave packages based on their specific situation. Some legally protected scenarios are as follows:

  • Mothers are granted a minimum of 16 weeks of parental leave.
  • Mothers are required to take at least eight weeks of leave.
  • In the event of a complicated pregnancy, mothers are granted an extra two weeks of leave before birth and up to four additional weeks after birth.
  • For all births after the third child, mothers receive 26 weeks of leave.
  • For twin births, mothers receive 12 weeks of leave.
  • For triplet births, mothers are entitled to 26 weeks of leave.

Meeting minimum legal requirements can be complicated, and not all elements of pregnancy are predictable. While employers and employees should try to create comprehensive leave plans, employers should bear in mind that unexpected contingencies could occur.

Consider planning reasonable accommodations for unforeseen circumstances, like:

  • Offering remote work opportunities for mothers who need more time at home after birth.
  • Hiring temporary employees to complete an employee’s duties if they extend their leave.
  • Implementing interim duty or schedule changes to accommodate part-time work during the transition.

7. Average income determines maternity and paternity leave compensation

During parental leave, an employee’s income level determines the level of compensation they are entitled to receive. Employers calculate daily allowances using the employee’s average income for the three months preceding their first day of leave.

However, the French social security program stipulates a maximum disbursement amount that an employee may receive in a quarterly period. Per current regulations, employees on leave may not make more than €10,284 per quarter, but the cap periodically fluctuates.

A knowledgeable partner for navigating maternity and paternity leave in France

Maternity and paternity leave laws in France are not static, as demonstrated by the addition of paternity leave benefits in 2021. But even as laws change, employers must stay up to date and remain compliant with international labor regulations.

For foreign employers hiring in France, understanding the legal requirements can be complicated. An employment services partner like a France employer of record not only can help companies navigate with local regulations governing leave, it also can hire on your behalf, assuming the responsibility for compliance. An employer of record can also help organizations:

  • Bypass bureaucratic red tape of entity establishment
  • Streamline global onboarding
  • Manage payroll, accounting for currency exchanges and taxes

Learn more about how Global Employment Outsourcing (GEO), our employer of record solution, can help you ensure compliance of labor rules like parental leave—speak with a global solutions advisor today.

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