The French Labor Code (Code du Travail) regulates many aspects like, the length of the workweek, payment for overtime, entitlement to vacation and personal leave, and termination of employment etc in France. In addition to the Labour Code, collective bargaining agreements and judicial precedents also govern employment relations.
Hours & Pay Regulations
The legal working-time in France is 35 hours a week (151.67 hours per month). The maximum number of hours that an employee may actually work per day is limited to 10 hours, and may not exceed 13 hours (i.e.working-time and breaks included), except for certain specific cases, such as a temporary increase in business activity.
The maximum working week is set at an average of 44 hours per week over a period of 12 consecutive weeks, with an absolute maximum of 48 hours.
Any time worked above 35 hours per week or 1,607 hours per year is considered as overtime and entitles the employee to additional compensation and, in some instances, paid leave. French Labor Code (as amended), arts. L3121-1 to L3121-4.
The basis for calculating overtime is 35 hours per week or 1,607 hours per year. Overtime hours are compensated as follows:
- Hours 35–43. The first eight overtime hours are subject to the payment of an overtime premium of 25 percent overtime.
- Hours 43 and above. Each hour worked above 43 hours is subject to an overtime premium of 50 percent.
- Paid leave of absence. The premium normally paid against overtime hours may be replaced, in all or in part, by a paid leave of absence. This replacement must be authorized by a collective bargaining agreement. The legal minimum time of this paid leave should be the equivalent of the overtime premium, i.e., 1 hour 15 minutes for the 25 percent overtime premium and 1 hour 30 minutes for the 50 percent overtime premium.
Paid leave of absence is mandatory when the overtime exceeds 220 hours per year. This paid leave of absence is granted to employees working overtime hours in addition to the premium paid. It should be equal, in companies having less than 20 employees, to 50 percent of each hour worked above the annual cap, and in companies having more than 20 employees, to 100 percent of each hour worked above the annual cap.
Overtime is subject to three limitations, as follows:
- The average workweek, including overtime, must not exceed 44 hours over a period of 12 consecutive weeks (this may be increased to 46 hours in some circumstances);
- For any given week, the absolute maximum duration of work is 48 hours; and
- For any given day, the absolute maximum duration is 10 hours.
French Labor Code (as amended), art. L3121-36.
Night work is defined as work performed between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. The duration of night work is limited to eight hours per 24-hour period and to a maximum weekly average (over 12 weeks) of 40 hours. Night work must be authorized by a collective bargaining agreement. The collective bargaining agreement must provide financial consideration and/or paid leave for night work performed.
Evening work only entails work between 9:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. The Loi Macron authorizes retail businesses for goods or services located in international tourist zones to stay open from 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Employees working “evening” hours receive at least double compensation for the work performed in the evening, being provided with special transportation when leaving work, and various other benefits. French Labor Code (as amended), arts. L3121-1 to L3121-4.
When employees work more than 6 hours a day, they are entitled to a rest break of 20 minutes, unless more favorable provisions are made by any applicable CBA. French Labor Code (as amended).
An employee has to be given at least 11 hours between shifts, may not work more than six days a week and must be given at least 35 consecutive hours off each week. French Labor Code (as amended), arts. L3121-1 to L3121-4.
The only mandatory public holiday in France is Labor Day (May 1). Other statutory holidays are the following:
- New Year’s Day (January 1)
- Easter Monday (variable)
- World War II Armistice (May 8)
- Ascension Day (variable)
- Pentecost/Whit Monday (variable)
- National Day (July 14)
- Assumption Day (August 15)
- All Saints Day (November 1)
- World War I Armistice (November 11)
- Christmas Day (December 25)
Employees employed on 1 May are entitled to a 100% premium. For other holidays, the law does not provide for any salary increase, but collective agreements may contain more favorable provisions.
Further, if a public holiday falls on a Saturday, no time off is granted. Also, if a public holiday falls on a Sunday, employees are not entitled to take the following Monday as a paid holiday. French Labor Code (as amended), arts. L3133-1 to L3133-12.
The minimum paid annual leave (after one year of employment) is five weeks. This duration may be increased by the applicable collective bargaining agreement. French law and collective bargaining agreements may award additional paid leave based on years of service.
Mandatory paid annual leave accrues at the rate of two and one-half working days per month with a maximum of 30 working days. A vacation may not exceed 24 working days, i.e., one month at a time. In other words, the fifth week of vacation may not be taken with the other four weeks.
The reference period for the calculation of holidays is from June 1 to May 31 of the current year. Unused leave in most cases cannot be carried forward. If an employee is sick during his leave, he is not entitled to any additional day. The same rule applies in the case of maternity leave during this period. French Labor Code (as amended), arts. L3141-3 to L3141-8.
Effective January 1, 2019 minimum wage in France is €10.03 per hour or the equivalent of €1,521.22 per month, based on a 35-hour working week.
The initial duration of unpaid parental leave is one year, which may be extended until the child’s third birthday. Both parents may take advantage of this possibility, either simultaneously or alternately. An employer may not refuse a request for parental leave, provided that the employee has at least one year of service with the employer on the date of birth or arrival of the child. However, during parental leave, the parent on leave receives state benefits. French Labor Code (as amended), arts. L1225-1 to L1225-30.
The minimum duration of maternity leave to which an employee is entitled is 16 weeks, at least 10 weeks of which must be taken after the child is born. The employee is not obliged to take the entire leave, but employers are prohibited from employing a woman for a total of eight weeks before or after she gives birth. French Labor Code (as amended), arts. L1225-1 to L1225-30.
A father is entitled to 11 consecutive days of paternity leave, to be taken within four months after the birth (or adoption) of his child. In certain circumstances, such as multiple births or health problems of the child or the mother, the number of days and the time within which paternity leave must be taken may be extended. This paternity leave is in addition to a mandatory paid leave of three days for the birth. French Labor Code (as amended), arts. L1225-35 to L1225-36.
An employee who sets up or takes over a business is entitled to either a leave of absence, during which time the employment agreement is suspended or to part-time employment, each for a period of one year. The one-year business creation leave may be extended for one additional year. To benefit from this leave of absence, employees must have at least 24 months’ service with their employer.
Employees with at least two years’ service (whether successive or not) are permitted, with their employer’s consent, to work for a different company for a fixed period. During this time, their original employment contract is suspended. The employee may notify the original employer that he or she wishes to return at any time during the mobility leave.
To be entitled to an educational leave, employees must have between two and five years of service, depending on the specific purpose of the leave. Employees who have been working in their field of activity for at least 24 months, 12 of which have been with their current employer, may request educational leave in order to pursue training that is not included in the employer’s training program. It may be taken for up to one year, provided that the employee gives prior notice of 120 days.
Companies with 1,000 employees or more that have entered into a GPEC agreement in connection with a dismissal for economic reasons must offer employees subject to dismissal a redeployment leave. The purpose of redeployment leave is to allow the employee to benefit from training and job search programs. Redeployment leave is granted for a minimum of four and a maximum of 12 months, and takes place during the notice period that the employee is not required to perform. If the redeployment leave period exceeds the length of the notice period, the termination of employment is postponed until the end of the redeployment leave. During that excess period, the employer must continue to pay the employee an amount equal to 65 percent of the average monthly gross remuneration received by the employee over the preceding 12 months.
Any employee may take paid family leave of:
- Three days following the birth or adoption of a child;
- Four days for her/his own wedding (without distinction between civil or religious ceremonies);
- Four days for his/her own civil union;
- One day for his/her child’s wedding,
- Five days for the death of a child;
- Three days for the death of a spouse or partner;
- Three days for the death of a close relative (father, mother, in-laws, siblings); and
- Two days in case of occurrence of a disability of a child.
French Labor Code (as amended), arts. L3142-1, L3142-4.
An employee may take unpaid family leave of:
- Three to five days per year for a sick child;
- Six weeks for adoption of a child abroad;
- Three months to take care of a relative with a terminal illness or severe handicap;
- Up to three years of parental leave, which can be taken on a fulltime or part-time basis, to raise a child under 3 years old;
- 310 days to take care of an ill, disabled or seriously injured child, to be taken at will during a maximum period of three years;
- One year to set up a business;
- Up to 11 months of sabbatical leave (subject to the employer’s agreement); and
- Six months to take part in a humanitarian association abroad
French Labor Code (as amended), arts. L3142-1, L3142-4.
An employee’s absence due to illness suspends the work contract and the employer’s obligation to fully compensate the employee. The Social Security Health System pays an employee on sick leave a daily benefit, and the employer is legally required only to make up the difference between that benefit and the employee’s normal compensation.
Subject to more favorable provisions in industry sector collective bargaining agreements, sick pay applies from the first day of absence if following a work-related accident or illness and from the eighth day of absence in all other cases.
Over the first 30 days of absence, the employee is paid 90 percent of the gross salary he or she would have earned had he or she continued to work. For the following 30 days, the employee receives two-thirds of this salary. These periods are increased by 10 days per five years’ service over and above the initial period of one year, but the full period of paid sickness absence may not exceed 90 days. French Labor Code (as amended), art. L1226-1 (French); Law of 10 August, 2018 Amending the Labor Code and Social Security Code with Regard to the Maintenance of the Contract of Employment and the Gradual Resumption of Work in the Event of Prolonged Capacity, arts. 2-5 (French)
Last updated on: November 29th, 2019