Labor Compliance Guide

Labor Requirements

France has the shortest work week, compared to other countries that belong to the European Union. The legal length of the workweek is 35 hours and the working day may not exceed 10 hours. Most French law regarding working time does not apply to senior executives.

Hours & Pay Regulations

Normal Working Hours

The legal working-time in France is 35 hours a week (151.67 hours per month) and is applicable to all companies, whatever the number of employees. The maximum number of hours that an employee may actually work per day is limited to 10, 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. For example, this limit would allow a person to work 48 hours during the first six weeks and 40 hours during the last six weeks of any period.


Working time may now be calculated in several ways:

  • On a weekly basis, with a cap of 35 hours;
  • On a monthly basis as provided for by certain collective bargaining agreements; and
  • On an annual basis where the cap is set by statute at 1,607 hours.

For more senior employees, it is possible to set a cap based not on a number of hours, but on a number of working days per year, with a maximum of 218 working days per year. Only high-level executives are not subject to limitations on working time. 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).


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. Collective bargaining agreements may set the overtime premium, the legal minimum being 10 percent of the employee’s hourly pay. Failing any collective bargaining agreement, a 25 percent overtime premium will apply for the first 8 hours of overtime worked.
  • Hours 43 and above. Each hour worked above 43 hours is subject to an overtime premium of 50 percent of the employee’s hourly pay, subject to a collective bargaining agreement entered into at the company level or the industry level, which may not provide for a premium of less than 10 percent for overtime.
  • 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 either the company or industry collective bargaining agreement, or the employer with the assent of the workers’ council or employees’ representatives (if any) in companies with no union section and not subject to the annual negotiation. 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).

Night Work

For all employees, whatever their gender, 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. An employee may ask to work during the day or refuse to perform night work if this nightly activity is incompatible with “pressing family obligations.” Such a refusal is not a valid cause for dismissal.


The Loi Macron notably changes the legal system applicable to night work. In fact, the statute implements new rules regarding “evening” work as opposed to night work. Night work is defined as work between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. whereas 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 have certain advantages, such as receiving 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).


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).

Public Holidays

The only mandatory public holiday in France is Labor Day (May 1). An employee who works on Labor Day must be paid at double his or her normal rate of compensation. 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)

Although it is a legal obligation not to work during a public holiday only for young employees under 18 and in Alsace-Moselle, these additional public holidays are usually not worked and paid like regular days, unless the collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise. In addition, it is forbidden to work extra hours to make up for working hours lost due to public holidays. French Labor Code (as amended).

Annual Leave

French law grants every employee the right to paid leave. In line with European case law, a new statute recently cancelled the requirement stated at Article L.3141­3 of the Labor Code, which conditioned eligibility for paid leave rights on a minimum of 10 days of effective work. An employee is automatically entitled to paid leave with no requirement of a minimum presence, as the previous criterion of one month and then 10 days of employment was invalidated for being contradictory to EU law.


The right to paid annual leave is acquired during a reference period starting on June 1 and ending on May 30 of any given year.


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 award additional days of paid leave for specific family events. It is also common for collective bargaining agreements to provide for 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.


Sick leave and maternity leave must remain separate from vacation leave. Unused leave in most cases cannot be carried forward. French Labor Code (as amended).

Special Leave

Parental Leave

The objective of parental leave is to ensure the education of children. The initial duration of 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. Parental leave is unpaid and suspends the employment contract of the parent. However, during parental leave, the parent on leave receives state benefits.  French Labor Code (as amended).

Maternity Leave

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. The employer has no legal obligation to pay the employee during the maternity leave. However, collective bargaining agreements often provide for a paid maternity leave. In addition to maternity leave, the mother has the right to request a suspension of her employment contract for a longer period of time, depending on the number of children she has in total. French Labor Code (as amended).

Paternity Leave

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. Paternity leave is not taken into account for purposes of calculating length of service. Paternity leave suspends the employment contract, and the employer has no obligation to pay the employee unless required to do so by applicable collective bargaining agreements. French Labor Code (as amended).

Business Creation Leave

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. French Labor Code (as amended).

Mobility Leave

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. French Labor Code (as amended).

Educational 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. Generally, an employee takes an educational leave to acquire new skills in order to obtain promotion or learn other skills, but an employee may also request leave to obtain a diploma in his or her field or to teach or carry out research. 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. Educational leave is taken at the employee’s initiative, but with the employer’s consent. It may be taken for up to one year, provided that the employee gives prior notice of 120 days. French Labor Code (as amended).

Redeployment Leave

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.  French Labor Code (as amended).

Other Paid Family Leave

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.
Other Unpaid Family Leave

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

Last updated on: December 4th, 2018