Supermum antics spark maternity leave row

Jan 12 2009 by Derek Torres Print This Article

One of the things I've always most admired about French labor laws is their very woman-oriented maternity laws (indeed, their very family-oriented paternity laws, too!). If that statement sounds odd to you, let me compared it to the very, what I would deem, "unfriendly" maternity leave offered (or, in the case of the USA Ė in company with Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland - not offered) in other developed nations.

This is precisely why I find it strange that the current Justice minister of France, Rachida Dati, was back at the office a mere five days after giving birth.

For those of you unfamiliar with how things are done here in France, it use to be that new mothers would stay 5 days in the hospital after giving birth Ė and that's when everything went a-ok! Even today, most women stay at least 3 days in the hospital (especially the first time), so that they have time to rest, learn to care for their new child and to help prevent them from feeling overwhelmed.

Depending on how many children you have, you also have a rather generous paid time off leave so that you can take care of your personal affairs.

In this particular case, Ms. Dati decided to return to work quite quickly. While I doubt that my work is as urgent as ministerial work for the president of the Republic, the question still has to be asked: "Who's bright idea was this?" But given President Sarkozy's messianic complex and having to have his finger in every pie, it's quite clear to me (and the Independent) that his not-too-subtle hints by stepping on to her current dossiers sent the following message: pick your priorities.

As her Socialist adversary points out in the article, "the choice is hers alone", but perhaps Ms. Dati could have allowed herself to take more a work week off to take care of herself and get her affairs in order. It would certainly have been a nod of solidarity to women across France; instead it sets an unpleasant precedent for pregnant women who have to justify their leaves to their employers since the wonderful Ms. Dati didn't take hers.