For members


The perks and benefits that employees in France enjoy

France has a bit of a reputation as a workers' paradise and while that is an exaggeration, there are still plenty of benefits that employees are entitled to.

The perks and benefits that employees in France enjoy
Being an employee in France has plenty of benefits. Photo: AFP

There’s a whole range of perks and extra rights that make France an attractive place to be an employee, although don’t confuse that with being lazy – French workers generally come out pretty well in comparative productivity surveys.

But as France has mountains of special programmes, complex labour agreements and perplexing regulations and rules, it can be tough to understand which benefits (avantages sociaux) you are actually entitled to. 

A lot of French workers, especially in the private sector, actually don’t benefit from the famous 35-hour week. Photo: AFP

1. RTT days 

The 35-hour week is probably France’s most famous labour law, but it’s also a bit more complicated in reality. In actual fact most French employees work more than 35 hours a week, the average is 39 hours, just under the European average of 40.3.

But if you work more than 35 hours a week bosses may have to compensate you for the extra hours worked, and this time back in lieu is known as Réduction du Temps de Travail or RTT days.

These are in addition to your usual paid holidays and are part of the reason why French workers are often able to take the whole of August off – public sector employees can get up to 34 RTT days a year (in addition to their 25 days of annual leave) and private sector employees can get up to 27 RTT days.

The bad news is that not everybody is entitled to this – certain professions, particularly in the private sector – have opted out and generally people in management or executive jobs do not get them.

Although there is some talk of lowering the limit still further and introducing a 32-hour week.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: Why France’s 35-hour week is such a sacred cow

2. Subsidised travel

If you take public transport to and from work your employer may have to help cover the cost.

If you have an abonnement (monthly pass) for the bus, Metro, train, RER or tram you may be entitled to claim 50 percent of the cost of this back from your employer.

This is normally done automatically through your wages but in some companies you may have to apply separately. So make sure you go to HR and ask for the form to fill in. If you are freelance at a company then the chances of having your travel refunded may depend on the amount of hours you do.

3. Restaurant vouchers

Tickets restos or luncheon vouchers are often distributed to workers whose company does not have a subsidised canteen – in total around four million employees in France get them. 

The vouchers used to be paper but are now generally charged up on to smart phones or cards. 

4. Paid days off for weddings

Your French boss has to give you four days off when you get married and five days off if your spouse or child dies.

But you are also guaranteed a day off when you and your partner join in civil union (PACS).

And when that son or daughter, whose birth brought you 16 weeks of maternity leave if you are the mother or 25 days paternity leave for dads (unless you have twins in which case it’s 28 days), gets hitched you are entitled to a day off to attend the wedding.  

READ ALSO These are the days off that French workers are entitled to

Mums are entitled to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. Photo: AFP

5. Subsidised healthcare

The majority of medical costs in France are covered by the State under the assurance maladie system with your carte vitale but most treatments are only reimbursed to a certain percentage.

READ ALSO How the French carte vitale works and why you need one

To recoup the full amount, most people have top-up insurance known as a mutuelle and since 2016 companies have been obliged to pay at least half the cost of this.

Many companies pay the full cost and offer policies that cover partners and families as well as an extra perk, but 50 percent is the statutory minimum.

6. Guaranteed maternity leave

Your French boss has to give you 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. It generally breaks down as six weeks before the birth and ten weeks after. Though many expectant mothers get notes from their doctors to stop working earlier.

To qualify for paid maternity leave you must be registered with France’s social security system for at least ten months before you give birth. You must have worked at least 200 hours over the three months preceding.

Most companies pay your full salary while you are on maternity leave, but under the statutory regulations there is a ceiling, so if you are a very high earner you could see your salary drop. You cannot be fired while on maternity leave, either.

7. Guaranteed paternity leave

New dads are now entitled to 25 consecutive days off, which includes weekends, following the birth of a child after President Emmanuel Macron doubled the leave allowance in 2021. If a family welcomes twins, the father gets 28 days off.

In most cases the government is responsible for paying you during paternity leave, with similar caps placed on earnings, as is the case with maternity leave.

French workers are generally quite willing to fight any attempt to take away their rights. Photo: AFP

9. Employees council 

In bigger companies you might benefit from discounted cinema and performing arts tickets through your worker’s council (Comité d’entreprise). If your employer has more than 50 workers, elections must held to name people to the council. The council then, among other services, frequently offers cultural or travel offers to workers.

10. Minimum wage

Yes, France has a minimum wage (known as Salaire minimum de croissance but referred to by almost everyone simply as le SMIC), so make sure you are not being paid what you legally deserve. 

The level of this is regularly revised but it currently stands at €10.15 an hour for over 18s, €9.14 an hour for 17-year-olds and €8.12 an hour for under 16s.

11. Conventions collectif

The perks outlined above are those covered in law, although as explained not everybody gets all of them.

However most jobs are also covered by conventions collectif, which are collective bargaining agreements struck between employee representatives and companies, sectors or even whole professions, and these often include extra benefits such as more holiday, extended maternity leave or overtime payments.

If you are covered by one of these it will be listed on your payslip along with the name of the convention that covers you. These are all published so you can then go and look up what other nice perks little perks somebody has once negotiated on your behalf.

Member comments

  1. I have been trying to claim the pension I am entitled to after more than 20 years self-employed in France. I don’t agree my releve de carrier, but, lacking income after Brexit and Covid, I decided to claim my French pension and argue afterwards. Page after boring, ill-thought out, page of l’Assurance Retraite. Then – coup de grace – nationalite? britannique. Adresse? Next page heading: Royaume Uni! Can’t change it. Adding French address results in ‘anomalie’! Can anybody tell me how they have got over that … please?

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For members


‘Don’t sleep naked’ – How to get a good night’s sleep in a French heatwave

France's increasing heatwaves also bring with them some hot, sticky and uncomfortable nights - so here are some tips from experts to help you sleep when it's hot.

'Don't sleep naked' - How to get a good night’s sleep in a French heatwave

Heatwaves in France – and across Europe – are becoming more frequent and more intense, and climate experts predict that this trend will continue.

As well as scorching days, many heatwaves are also characterised by night-time temperatures that don’t drop – in many places in France temperatures have stayed above 20C all night during recent heatwaves.

Here, then, are a few tips to keep cool overnight, and enjoy better sleep despite the heat of the night.

Don’t sleep naked

It’s tempting to ditch the PJs when it’s this warm overnight. But sleep experts say this is a mistake, as any moisture from sweat accumulates on your body.

Cotton pyjamas and cotton sheets are very effective in absorbing sweat and taking it away from your body. 

Avoid naps, keep a routine

It’s tempting, but avoid any extra napping during the day.

It’s easier to sleep overnight when you go to bed tired than when you’ve already slept a little. More generally, hot weather can cause us to change our habits. Even small changes can disrupt the sleep cycle.

Try, then, to maintain a routine, and go to bed at your usual time, after doing the things you usually do before bed.

Eat and drink sensibly

Old news, but what you put in your body affects how it performs. Drink sensibly and regularly throughout the day, and avoid having a lot of water just before bed – you’ll only need to go to the bathroom in the night. 

Avoid alcohol, obviously. Yes, it can help you fall asleep quickly, but it also promotes early and abrupt awakening, and you get poorer quality sleep in general. Limiting alcohol is advised in general during a heatwave as it dehydrates you.

And eat light – a diet based on fruits, vegetables, or fish is good when the temperature is high.

Evening shower

Are you used to taking a shower before going to bed? It’s not a bad idea during a heat wave: it lowers the body’s temperature, which helps you fall asleep.

But keep the water lukewarm. A cold shower may be tempting, but the body reacts by generating heat – which is exactly what you don’t want. 

Keep your home cool

If you have trouble sleeping in the heat, the first thing to do is to keep your room – and your home – as cool as possible.

Follow the French tricks of opening your windows early in the morning and late in the evening when the temperature is lower, then shutting both windows and shutters (or curtains if you don’t have shutters) when the sun is high. 

To keep room temperatures the same, open internal doors to allow the air to circulate.

Meanwhile, don’t spend all your time on the PC, playing on a games console or watching TV – screens give off heat that add to the heat of the room.

Fans are good

As long as you’ve been able to keep your room relatively cool, fans work. They help evaporate sweat which, in turn, helps your body regulate its temperature. 

Putting a bowl of ice in front of the fan can also help cool the room.

Humidity works

Some people swear by dampening their sheets before going to bed. But if you’re not used to it, the feeling can be a little disconcerting. You can also place multiple ice containers in the corners of your room which will melt slowly overnight and cool the air.

Still can’t sleep?

Get up and do something relaxing – like read a book, or even write.

But avoid doom-scrolling on your phone, or powering up the laptop … even if you really, really want to read The Local.

The light from personal devices is overstimulating and will, in fact, keep you awake.