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Fathers to get ‘bonuses’ for paternity leave

French President François Hollande this week announced plans to give financial incentives to encourage fathers to take their fair share of parental leave.

Fathers to get 'bonuses' for paternity leave
File photo: Shningleback/flickr

Speaking at a convention on equality on Thursday, the French president said the reform was necessary to ensure women spend less time out of work, which can harm their career prospects, and to encourage second parents – in most cases fathers – to share the burden of parental leave ('congé parental').

In France 'congé parental' can be taken by either parent at the end of maternity leave, but statistics show it is taken up by mothers in 96 percent of cases. This is a figure the government has its sights set on re-balancing.

"Today, less than 4% of those taking parental leave are men," said Hollande. "This means that for the most part, parental leave is for women, but it sometimes ends up working against women, when they cannot find a job again."

Under the proposed changes, parental leave will be reduced from a maximum of three years for parents with two or more children to two and half years. However an additional six months leave can be taken, but only by the father.

For parents with one child, the six months will also be extended to one year, but only if the additional six months is taken by the father.

Someone on parental leave currently receives a maximum allowance of €566 per month.

The question will remain over whether fathers, whose salary is often higher than that of their partners, will be attracted by the idea of giving up work to stay at home and look after their children.

To encourage them to sign up, the French government is to give men financial incentives or "bonuses" by increasing their parental allowance during the six months they are on leave.

Despite the increased ‘bonus’ for fathers and the lengthening of the minimum time for parental leave, the government insists the reform will not cost the government anything.

Further details on the legislation are expected to be announced in May and will form part of a new equality law being put together by the French government.

The changes in the law are not expected to come into force before January 2014 and may even be delayed up to July 2014.

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CHILDREN

France to finally ban smacking children – but parents won’t be punished

France's parliament is expected to adopt a ban on parents smacking their children although those that do are unlikely to be punished.

France to finally ban smacking children - but parents won't be punished
Smacking will be outlawed. Photo monkeybusiness/Depositphotos

The practice of smacking children, referred to in France as la fessée is condemned by the UN but still enjoys widespread support in the country

The ban, to be put to a final vote in the Senate on Tuesday, would make France the 55th state to prohibit corporal punishment of children.

It will be written into the Civil Code and read out to couples when they exchange their marital vows. 

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The newly-weds will be told that “parental authority is exercised without physical or psychological violence”. 

The measure, which was adopted by MPs in November, is expected to easily pass the Senate despite some lawmakers on the right railing against what they see as “interference” in family life.

Violence towards children is already banned under France's penal code, but a 19th-century addendum to the Civil Code's definition of parental authority made allowances for parents when “disciplining” their children.

According to France's Childhood Foundation, 85 percent of French parents admit to smacking their children.

Attempts by previous governments to ban the practise have run afoul of conservatives, but resistance has softened in recent years.

The new law does not contain a specific punishment for parents who break the rules.

Its main goal is to encourage society to change its ways, Maud Petit, the MP who sponsored the measure, said.

The legislation will bring France in line with international treaties on the rights of children.

In 2015, the Council of Europe, which makes recommendations on rights, singled out France for failing to follow the example of other European countries by banning smacking.

A year later, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child urged France to “explicitly prohibit” all forms of corporal punishment of children. 

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