There has been a significant amount of discussion and debate across Europe, most noticeably in the UK and France, regarding parental leave with many parents still looking enviously towards the Nordic model.
Regular readers will be aware of developments taking place in relation to shared parental leave in the UK but there have also been interesting recent developments in France. Commentators are divided as to whether this is a concerted push towards promoting equality in the workplace or a cynical attempt to control the social welfare budget.
Currently, a parent in France can take up to two and half years off work to look after their child and receive a welfare payment of €567 per month. The parent will have the right to return to work in the same post. In addition there is a right to extend this length of leave to the third birthday of the child if the second parent takes the remaining six months.
Invariably, it is the mother who takes the two and a half years with figures suggesting that this is the case in 96% of households.
President Hollande’s proposal is to change the system and try and ensure that parental leave is shared equally between parents namely giving each parent one and a half years each of parental leave. However, the ramifications of this change will meant that parent 1 (usually the woman) will lose the right to benefits and also the right to return to the same job after eighteen months. The Health Minister Marisol Touraine argues that this will boost equality in the workplace and help women to pursue their careers and encourage men to become more involved with parenting.
However, critics from the French campaign group “World Movement of Mothers” believe that this is a cynical attempt to cut welfare benefits and also are fearful that fathers will not take up the right. The proposed changes come on the back of proposals to cut the cost of child benefit and place a freeze on benefit increases in later years of the child’s life.
Certainly, this is an interesting development that shows a growing awareness of the need to address issues in relation to working parents. We will keep you updated on how this proposal develops.
The concept of shared parenting and the need to be flexible is a key matter on the agendas of governments in the EU. However, it remains to be seen whether there will be other broader macro-economic and social measures taken to ensure that the right does not remain a “paper right” with little opportunity for take up.
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