French labour laws: Working time and leave
Read Expatica’s comprehensive guide to the leave you are entitled to while working in France and the maximum number of working hours per week.
In France, the legal length of the working week is 35 hours in all types of companies. The working day may not exceed 10 hours. Furthermore, employees may not work for more than 4.5 hours without a break. The maximum working day may be extended to 12 hours under a collective agreement.
In principle, no more than 48 hours a week may be worked, 44 hours per week on average over a period of 12 consecutive weeks (up to a maximum of 46 hours, under conditions).
Breaks, lasting a minimum of 20 minutes, must be granted to the employees at least every 6 hours. All workers must be allowed a daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours (9 hours in certain cases depending on collective agreements).
The minimum weekly rest period is 35 consecutive hours (11 hours plus a 24 consecutive hour rest period per week). There are waivers for some activities (machine operators, seasonal workers). Sundays are, in general, considered rest days.
Overtime must be paid for as follows:
- 25 percent an hour for each of the first eight hours of overtime (from the 36th to the 43rd hour inclusive)
- 50 percent for each hour after that
It should be noted that many exceptions are allowed, especially under collective agreements. Some managerial staff classified as “autonome” work more than 35 hours a week, but are given additional holiday days.
Night work is performed between 21.00 and 06.00 may not in principle exceed 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week (44 hours if governed by decree or collective agreement). Night work is compensated for with weekly rest days or extra pay.
Pregnant women working nights must be given daytime work throughout their pregnancy and during the legal postnatal leave period if they so request.
The maximum working day for under-18s and apprentices is 8 hours (7 hours a day for under-16s working during school holidays). For under-18s and apprentices, the absolute maximum length of the working week is 35 hours.
Annual paid leave
All workers have a right to paid leave once they have worked at least one month during the reference period (which runs from 1 June of the previous year to 31 May of the current year).
Workers are then entitled to two-and-a half working days’ leave for each month worked, i.e. five weeks of paid leave per year worked.
In principle, only periods actually worked are taken into account when determining the entitlement to paid leave. Periods of absence from work are not counted. However, certain periods are considered as valid periods of employment, such as annual leave the previous year, maternity leave, training leave, or time off sick if the collective agreement covers this.
Paid leave dates are decided by mutual agreement between the employer and the employee, or, failing that, by the employer.
To be able to benefit from daily allowances, contributions have to have been paid for 200 hours during the 3 months prior to stopping work. On presentation of form E104, the periods for which contributions have been paid in another European country are taken into account.
Maternity leave is 16 weeks per child (6 weeks before and 10 weeks after the birth).
Paternity leave is 11 consecutive calendar days in the case of a single birth and 18 days in the case of multiple births, as from the birth of the child. This leave cannot be split up. It can be taken together with the 3 day leave granted on the birth of a child.
Parental child-rearing leave
Following maternity leave, in order to look after the child, either parent who is an employee may ask to benefit from this. Maximum of three years.
Parental presence leave
To look after a child who is disabled, has suffered an accident or is seriously ill.
Individual training leave (CIF)
This cannot exceed one year. Partial maintenance of the salary is guaranteed.
Can be between 6 and 11 months.
Eligibility for some of these types of leave may be conditional upon seniority in the company, or minimum contributions paid to the public social security scheme.
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