France is doubling paternity leave to 28 days from 14 starting on Thursday, making it one of the most generous policies in Europe aimed at fostering more involvement by fathers in their children’s first days of life.
At least one week of paternity leave will be mandatory under legislation adopted by parliament late last year, which takes effect Thursday.
The policy will also apply to the second parent in same-sex couples, both male and female.
France introduced paid leave for new fathers in 2002 but only seven in 10 dads take advantage of it, despite numerous studies showing a raft of positive impacts from having both parents present after birth.
President Emmanuel Macron announced the plan for extended leave last September, calling it “above all a measure to encourage equality between women and men.”
The bulk of the cost will be borne by France’s social security system, to the tune of about 500 million euros ($593 million) a year, with employers covering just three days of leave.
Twenty-three of the 27 EU member states offer paternity leave, which an EU directive from 2019 sets at a minimum of 10 days, to be implemented by August 2022.
But the disparities are stark, with Germany, Slovakia and Croatia offering no guaranteed leave for new fathers, while as of this year Spain grants up to 16 weeks.
Some countries such as Iceland and Sweden offer “shared” leave in which parents can split an overall number of days between them.
In the US, federal laws do not provide for any paternity leave but it is offered in some states such as California and New York.
“If you can be near your child on a daily basis, you become more sensitive and attentive and develop your parenting skills,” said Isabelle Filliozat, a psychotherapist and vice president of the “1,000 First Days Commission,” which pushed for an even longer paternal leave of up to nine weeks.
But she welcomed the change as a first step in inducing more fathers to take time off, in particular the mandatory one-week leave, “which will help them in their negotiations with bosses.”