How to Manage Maternity Leave in France

Although all pregnant employees are entitled to maternity leave in France – and indeed must legally take at least some – the exact procedure depends on a range of circumstances.

In this article, we will explain the typical process, payment, and duration of maternity leave in a French workplace.

First, it is important to note that the French Labour Code and Collective Bargaining Agreements govern the rights relating to maternity leave.  While employers have the freedom to enhance these statutory rights, few small to mid-sized companies do.

Maternity leave in France is taken in two parts: before the birth (antenatal) and after (postnatal).

A pregnant employee is generally entitled to take 16 weeks of maternity leave in total: six weeks antenatal and 10 weeks postnatal.  However, the exact duration of the leave will vary depending on how many children she already has, and if the pregnancy involves multiple births.

For example, an employee who is expecting twins can take 34 weeks in total (12 weeks antenatal and 22 weeks postnatal) and triplets 46 weeks (24 and 22 weeks respectively).  Furthermore, an employee who is expecting her third child can take 26 weeks (eight and 18 weeks respectively)

Regardless of the total maternity leave duration, the employee must stop working for at least eight weeks, of which six must be postnatal.  Outside of this rule, the employee may decide not to take the remainder of her maternity leave entitlement.

The process begins once the employee has notified her employer of her intention to take maternity leave.

She must do this by registered letter (with formal acknowledgment of receipt) which also provides the date on which the maternity leave is expected to end.

Following this notification, the time spent by a pregnant employee on compulsory prenatal consultations is paid at the rate of her usual salary, if she cannot attend these outside of her working hours.

While there is no legal requirement for a risk assessment during pregnancy, basic workplace checks should be made to ensure the employee’s working conditions are safe and satisfactory throughout her pregnancy. It is recommended to remind the employee that she can consult occupational health if she needs to.

Antenatal leave may be postponed, subject to the approval of the doctor monitoring the employee’s pregnancy. 

The employee may also ask to reduce her antenatal leave by a maximum of three weeks.  Her postnatal leave will then increase by the same amount of time.

In the event of illness due to pregnancy, or the aftermath of childbirth, the maternity leave duration increases by two weeks before the expected date of birth, or four weeks after.  The illness must be confirmed by a medical certificate.

Maternity pay takes the form of a daily benefit, paid by the French social security system.

The daily amount is equivalent to 100% of the employee’s salary.  Payment is made every 14 days, as long as she has:

  • been registered with the French social security system for at least 10 months,
  • worked at least 150 hours in the previous three months (or if her work is intermittent, 600 hours in the previous year).

During maternity leave the employment contract is suspended, so the maternity payments replace the employee’s usual salary. 

However, collective agreements may offer more favourable compensation – including the full continuation of the employee’s usual salary payments – so it is very important to check the full details of any agreement in place.

At the end of maternity leave, the employee must either return to her previous job, or a similar role with at least equivalent pay.

She must also undergo a return to work visit with occupational health, which must be organised by the employer within eight days of her return date, and an entretien professional (professional interview) to discuss her future career development.

Can we help you navigate maternity leave in France?

Our bilingual HR consultants are happy to advise and answer specific questions, so please get in touch.

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