Faire le pont: The best thing about France's public holiday system

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 28 Oct, 2022 Updated Fri 28 Oct 2022 15:21 CEST
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The Millau Viaduc - France's second best bridge after 'bridge' weekends. Photo by Fred SCHEIBER / AFP

There are some drawbacks to the public holiday system in France but at least you can't beat the so-called 'ponts'.


France has a pretty generous system of public holidays, but there are a couple of drawbacks for employees in the country - the principle one being that in some years the calendar conspires to deprive you of days off work.

Unlike the UK where the day off is generally taken on the nearest Monday to the festival day, in France the public holiday is on whatever day of the week it lands on - great news if it's a Monday or a Friday, but if it falls on a weekend you just lose your day off.

This is why you will hear about particular years being 'a good year' for holidays, when the maximum number of holidays fall on a week day and - even better - fall on a Monday or a Friday to create a long weekend.


Ironically 2020 - when we spent large parts of the year confined to the home - was a good year for public holidays, but 2021 and 2022 are both bad years, because several key holidays fell on a Saturday last year and fall on a Sunday this year, meaning no extra day off.

READ ALSO Why 2022 is a bad year for public holidays in France

However, the November 1st holiday of Toussaint falls on a Tuesday this year - giving people one of the few opportunities in 2022 to partake in a great French tradition - doing the bridge.

The nifty little system of "doing the bridge" (faire le pont) occurs when people take a Monday or a Friday off if a public holiday occurs on a Tuesday or Thursday. Therefore you get a lovely four-day break while only using up one day of annual leave.

If the holiday falls on a Wednesday you can faire le viaduc (do the viaduct) which means taking two days off to join the holiday to the weekend.

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


While these are very popular with employees, they're less loved by bosses. Back in 2014, a year that had three "pont" days, the estimated cost to the economy was €4 billion.

"People think more about their holidays than work," Patrick Durussel, who owns a  company in the Oise region of northern France, told Europe1 radio at the time of the report. 

He added that when too many long weekends crop up in a row, his business has to push back deadlines, then charge less for work, and ultimately lose money. 

Top business owners have tried to cut down on the public holidays in France, but union leaders reacted with fury, so rest assured, the public holidays (and their bridge days) look set to hang around. 

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Workers in France get 11 public holidays in a year, apart from the people of Alsace Lorraine who get 13 due to complicated historical reasons involving invasions.

After Toussaint on November 1st, the next holiday in France is the Armistice Day holiday on November 11th - this year that falls on a Friday, so not quite a bridge but still a nice long weekend.

We then have to wait until Christmas for the next holiday - French workers only get December 25th as a statutory holiday - which this falls on a Sunday meaning no extra days off at all. However it's not uncommon for employers to give workers a few extra days off over the festive period. 



The Local 2022/10/28 15:21

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[email protected] 2020/05/23 11:34
My business is doing very well, public holidays make no difference. And quality of life of employees is higher. But who wants that?
[email protected] 2020/05/23 09:58
Ascension Day is always on a Thursday, not just this year!
[email protected] 2020/05/23 07:47
The best thing? Only if you don't own a business.

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