Education is obligatory from age three – though home-schooling is an option – so, for working parents, the main challenge is to find a solution for under-threes.
There are four types of crèche for children from two months to three years and all must use qualified staff. They are all regulated by the PMI (mother and child protection service, run by the department) apart from the crèches d’entreprises.
a) Crèches collectives are run by councils or a private organisation for up to 60 children. There are also mini-crèches for up to 10 children. There must be a ratio of one adult to five babies too young to walk and one adult for every eight children who can walk.
b) Crèches familiales are run by local authorities or private organisations. They are open once or twice a week and are places where qualified childminders who look after one to four children in their own homes meet up for activities.
c) Crèches parentales are run by parents, for up to 25 children.
d) Crèches d’entreprises are run by employers for their workers, with a maximum of 60 children and qualified staff.
The amount you pay depends on your income and family situation. Care for under-sixes outside the home gives the right to a tax credit of 50% of annual costs within a limit of €2,300 per child (ie. €1,150 of credit). Many crèches have preferential rates due to Caf funding.
If the crèche does not have funding, you can apply for the benefit complément de libre choix du mode de garde (CMG) which in certain circumstances can pay up to 85% of childcare costs. You have to work or be a student to receive this. Parents are advised to get in touch with several crèches before a baby is born, as demand usually exceeds places.
These are public or private childcare centres with qualified staff who can look after under-sixes for a few hours or half-days per week but not full-time. The cost depends on family income and gives rise to tax credits as mentioned above.
Assistantes maternelles are qualified childminders who can look after children in their own home or at a Maison d’assistantes maternelles, where four or more work together. Each can look after up to four children. They are employed directly by the parent, who agrees rates of pay. It has to be at least €2.85 an hour per child. Hours are up to 45 a week, with at least one day off a week for the childminder and 30 paid days holiday a year.
The simplest way to pay is via the Urssaf and Caf site Pajemploi. You declare hours and days worked, the service calculates the money due and pays it to the childminder, taking it from your account, adjusted according to how much CMG you are entitled to.
Parents can also pay via the Cesu, Chèque Emploi Service Universel. The childminder is eligible for certain allowances for items such as toys or nappies. There is guidance at mon-enfant.fr. You can claim a tax credit as for crèches, and CMG benefit.
Employing a nanny at home
You can employ a person of your choice to look after a child or children in your own home, called garde d’enfants à domicile, even if they do not have specific qualifications. You pay their wage, plus social charges. It is not necessarily more expensive if you have several children or if you share the cost with another family (the nanny shares their time between the two). Ways to find one include netparticulier.fr, pole-emploi.fr, small ads and noticeboards, or a RAM - relais d’assistantes maternelles (local childcare sector support group). You can claim a tax credit for up to 50% of the costs within set limits if you use Pajemploi.
There are two further systems, which involve a declaration to Urssaf and social charges to be paid but do not involve Cesu or Pajemploi. A stagiaire aide familial étranger is a person who has come from abroad to study. You must lodge and feed them and pay €274-€328.50 per month in return for childcare help or other domestic tasks for up to five hours a day. An au pair is paid solely via food and accommodation or other “payment in kind”.
To find childcare options, and calculate financial help you are entitled to, visit Caf’s site monenfant.fr. RAMS and mairies can also help. Childcare facilities have been affected by Covid-19 and many might not be running as normal in June.