Could French men soon be forced to take paternity leave?

A think tank in France has urged the government to force dads to take paternity leave, even if they don't want to. It's all in the name of equality in the workplace.

Could French men soon be forced to take paternity leave?
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The economic think-tank OFCE proposed the changes in a report as a solution to ongoing problem of inequality between men and women when it comes to careers.

It offered three suggestions to improve parental leave. One was to make the 11 days fathers are currently allowed to take off obligatory, the second was to double the length to 22 days, and the third was to make it six weeks.

An additional possibility was that women, who can currently take off six weeks before the birth and ten weeks after, would be able to transfer some of their maternity leave over to the father.  

Forcing men to take their 11 days of paternity leave would reduce the impact on a woman’s career from taking a long maternity leave, the report said, as well as encouraging men to do more household and child-rearing work.

On average, women devote 33 percent less time to work than men, while earning 25 percent less, the report noted.

At the same time, women do 71 percent of household work and 65 percent of the time dedicated to looking after the family, the report said.

The report states that 15 years of budgetary initiatives haven’t encouraged French men to give more time to family-related work. Even when paternity leave is on offer, many men choose not to take it.

According to the OECD only 4 percent of French parents who take up parental leave are men. This is one of the lowest percentages of countries in the OECD.

Almost half of those French men who didn’t take the full leave said it was because they were “not interested”.

READ ALSO: Can France coax fathers to take time off work?

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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.