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Parental leave rules explained

France offers employed mothers 16 weeks’ paid congé maternité

EUROPEAN MPs have backed a draft law that would extend maternity leave to 20 weeks on full pay, but the French government is against the proposal because of its cost.

The plan was approved at first reading by MEPs in Strasbourg. Ministers from each member state will now debate it in the Council of Europe.

Fromer family minister Nadine Morano is against the increase, which she estimates would cost the French social security system an extra €1.3bn a year.

She says the EU should instead look at ways of allowing couples to share their leave time as they see fit, because “fathers today want to be a bit more involved”.

Under the current system, France offers employed mothers 16 weeks’ paid congé maternité (three to six before the expected date of birth and 10 to 13 after). The total allowance increases to 34 weeks for twins and 46 for triplets.

Women receive 26 weeks, instead of 16, from their third child. They can choose to return to work sooner, but must take a minimum of eight weeks, including six after the birth, to receive pay.

The leave is paid at 100 per cent of salary, capped at €540 net per week. This is the equivalent of a €2,885 gross monthly salary.

Mums-to-be are also entitled to the allocation forfaitaire de repos maternel, which aims to encourage women to reduce their working hours in the weeks leading up to birth. It pays e2,885, half in the
17th month of pregnancy and the other half upon the birth of the child.

Working fathers can take a mandatory 11 days’ congé paternité, capped at €77.24 per day, or 18 days for multiple births, plus three extra days of paid holiday for the birth.

Maternity and paternity leave is paid by your social security office. To be eligible for the payments, you must have registered with the French social security system at least 10 months before the expected date of birth. You must also have worked at least 200 hours in the three months preceding the date the leave begins, or have earned at least €8,993 in the six months before the same date. Different limits apply for seasonal workers.

Paternity leave is available to all fathers regardless of the couple’s marital status. It can be taken any time within four months of the child’s birth, in one block.

You should inform your employer at the earliest possible opportunity that you intend to take time off and confirm the provisional start date by registered letter with proof of receipt (lettre recommandée avec avis de réception) at least one month before the leave is due to begin.

It is also worth checking the wording of your company’s collective agreement, where one exists. Some firms have arrangements to make up the difference between the statutory leave pay and your actual salary.

Self-employed mothers can claim parental leave pay from their social security office, called an indemnité journalière forfaitaire d’interruption d’activité.

It is paid out to women who stop work for at least 44 consecutive days, of which 14 must be before the planned date of birth. The leave can be extended by a further 15 or 30 days, and it is paid at a flat rate of €48.08 per day. Giving birth to twins or triplets attracts an extra 30 days off work and a further €1,442.

Self-employed fathers can also claim €48.08 per day, but only for the statutory 11-day paternity leave period.

Employers cannot refuse parental leave, with the exception of paternity leave if the request was made less than a month before the planned departure date.

Companies are required to fill in a form confirming the parent-to-be’s salary, which should then be sent to their Assurance Maladie office. This form is called an attestation de salaire pour le paiement des indemnités journalières maladie-maternité et paternité and can be downloaded from

Women returning to work must be given the same job or a similar one, paid at the same rate. If a pay rise was offered to other staff in the same rank while the worker was off, it must be offered from the date the mother returns to work. Employers must also offer a meeting with the employee to discuss their future role, professional development and any special needs.

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