Hearing of UNAF (COFACE Member) by the Member of Parliament Monique Limon within the framework of the “Social Spring of the evaluation of parental leave”.
The current crisis highlights the lack of confidence in families. UNAF launched the slogan “Restoring confidence in families” back in 2017 which remains relevant today. One of the most striking manifestations is the decline in births. The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) notes a real “baby crash” with 13% fewer births in January 2021 than in January 2020. But beware of hasty interpretations! This drop is not sudden; it follows 6 years of strong uninterrupted decline.
However, the desire to have children is still there. The ideal number of children for an average French person is still 2.39 children. But families have doubts about being sufficiently supported in their parenting by the state.
The second point to note is that in France there is no global public policy on work-life balance. Unaf is not against a reform of parental leave, but it must be part of a medium-term policy that includes all aspects of the subject: leave, childcare facilities and social negotiations at branch or company level on the “right to request”.
The third factor is that a child requires lots of time from both parents (additional domestic time, uncertain nights for 4 to 6 months or more, constant vigilance and medical monitoring, etc.).
Beyond personal preferences and choices, the suspension or reduction of activity is for many parents an obligation. The new investment of time is often felt as burden and the amount is considerable. Working conditions do not allow, in many cases, to take this needed time.
This “time shock” is not, or only to a very limited extent, resolved by taking parental leave. Parental leave no longer appears to be an effective solution to this time issue.
Unaf has been mandated by Adrien Taquet, the Secretary of State for Child Protection, to bring up the experiences and expectations of families through several mechanisms:
- A qualitative study on reconciliation with parents of young children (2 to 4 years old) through interviews
- A questionnaire distributed to families through the Udaf and family movements
- Debates led by some Udaf
The fourth point of attention: the 2019 European Work-Life Balance Directive must be transposed into national law by August 2, 2022.
According to this Directive, three points must evolve in French national legislation:
- The prerequisite of activity to obtain compensation for parental leave must be reduced from 2 to one year.
- The obligation to significantly increase the level of compensation for parental leave for at least six weeks per parent
- A “right to request” flexible working arrangements, with a reasoned refusal by the employer as provided for in Article 9 of the European Directive.
Unaf is therefore in favor of better compensation for parental leave for the first few months, on the model recommended by the European Commission in 2017.
Moreover, a system of long leave, both part-time and full-time, must most certainly be maintained, at least for those who cannot find a childcare solution compatible with their profession. The needs of large families, single-parent families and families with multiple births must also be integrated.
In some cases, this long leave should be combined with a system of access to professional training in the last year of the leave to facilitate the return to work.