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These are the days off that workers in France are entitled to

The Local France
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These are the days off that workers in France are entitled to
You won't spend your entire life on the beach if you work in France, but time off is generous. Photo: AFP

France is a country that has a strong culture of workers' rights and while it's not true that everyone in France works a 35 hour week and gets the whole of August off, as an employee you are entitled to quite a few days off.


French workers are actually some of the most productive in Europe, but the strong protection for employees also means that they are entitled to plenty of time off. (And perhaps those two things are not a coincidence? It is just possible that relaxed and refreshed employees produce better work than knackered and stressed ones).

So here's what you are entitled to as an employee in France.

Holidays - Let's start with the basics. Obviously you are entitled to paid holiday time and that amounts to five weeks - 25 days - a year. So on the generous side but not startlingly more than other European countries including the UK. You need to work for one month before you are entitled to paid leave.

Public holidays - If you've spent much time in France you may have noticed that there are quite a few public holidays. As well as the obvious ones likes Christmas and Easter France also takes May 1st as a holiday as well as VE Day, Armistice Day and various Catholic festivals. In total there are 11 per year, unless you live in Alsace Lorraine in which case there are 13.

However although most employees gets these as days off the only one that is actually compulsory for employers to give you the day off for is May 1st (the workers' holiday). In all other cases employers have the right to ask you to work, although they would usually offer extra money or a day off in lieu. And if the fête day happens to fall on a weekend it's just your bad luck and you don't get any extra time off.


Many French workers use their compulsory May 1st day off to join in protests, although others just head to the bar. Photo: AFP

RTT days - Probably France's most famous employment policy is the 35 hour working week, introduced in 2000 as a measure to reduce unemployment. However in practice the majority of people in France work more than 35 hours a week - more like the 39/40 hour week that is the standard in the UK. But if you work over 35 hours you are entitled to réduction du temps de travail, commonly abbreviated to RTT.

This means you get extra time off to compensate for working more than 35 hours - so if you work 39 hours a week, you will be entitled to an extra 4 hours per week of paid time off, which you can use when you like as extra holiday time.

However some employees agree to forfeit the time - forfait jours - and in bad news for anyone who has climbed the greasy pole at their workplace, this usually includes managers and executives.

Maternity leave - Like most other countries, if you have a baby, you get time off. France is not actually all that generous with its maternity leave - you get 16 weeks on full pay and that's it. Although you can choose to take more time on less or no pay many French women don't take more than the 16 weeks, probably because the childcare system is excellent and very cheap.

For dads the paternity leave is 11 days, unless you have had twins in which case you get 18 days.

READ ALSO The family benefits you can claim in France, but probably didn't know about



Getting married gets you four days off work, while a PACS only scores you one. Photo: AFP

Wedding leave - If you are getting married you are entitled to four days off work and if one of your children is getting married you are entitled to one day off. If you've opted for a PACS (civil partnership) to celebrate your commitment, however, you only get one day.

Compassionate leave - If your child or spouse dies you are entitled to five days off.

Medical leave - Statutory sick pay in France is 50 percent of your salary for the first six months you are off work. After that you will have to meet certain criteria to keep getting paid, up to a maximum of three years off work. Although it's worth noting that in practice many employers offer more than this basic level, which doesn't automatically entitle you to any pay at all for the first three days you are sick.

Every time you start a new job you are entitled to a full medical - in fact it is compulsory - and every five years after that. Your employer is obliged by law to give you time off for this appointment.

READ ALSO How sick leave in France compares to the UK and the US



So that's the statutory things covered, however many people in France are also entitled to extra time thanks to their conventions collectives (collective bargaining agreements).

Collective bargaining - These are agreements worked out between unions or employee representatives to offer extra perks and bonuses to staff. Some are directly between one union and one company, but many others cover a group of companies or even an entire industry.

It's estimated that 95 percent of workers in France are covered by some kind of convention collective which offers them more that the bare minimum - whether that is travel vouchers to cover their commute, a subsidised staff canteen or extra time off.

Some people get more annual holiday than the statutory 25 days, some get more maternity leave while others get extra perks throughout the year.

A good example of this is the Pentecost religious festival. The story is a bit involved but basically it used to be a public holiday and now isn't. Except that many people do still get the day off, either by direct negotiation with their boss or collective bargaining.

In the case of SNCF employees, unions struck a deal with the rail operator that all employees would work an extra 1 minute and 52 seconds a day and over the course of a year that would add up to a whole day, which they would take as a day off at Pentecost.

Some companies also offer time off for moving house, for religious observance or for childcare reasons.

The agreements can also cover how time off is given - for example many employees who work at weekends are covered by an agreement that states that not only do they have to be given a day back in lieu for every weekend day worked, but the days off must be consecutive - in order to give the worker a two-day break equivalent to a real weekend.

So in short it's well worth checking which collective bargaining agreements apply in your workplace, as you could be entitled to a whole host of extra time off, all depending where you work.

Your retirement age can vary quite substantially depending on where you work. Photo: DepositPhotos

Retirement - which brings us to the ultimate time off - the day you're released from going in to work at all. And here too, where you work is very important.

The official state retirement age in France is 62 - although there are some attempts to reform that - but in many industries people have agreements in place which means they can retire earlier. For example Metro drivers and Edf employees retire at 55 while Locomotive drivers retire at 50 under special regimes worked out over the years. 

READ ALSO People in France live longer and healthier lives, new study shows




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