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


Courtier: Should you hire a broker when buying property in France?

If you're researching the French property market, you might have come across mentions of 'courtiers' - here's what they do and whether they are necessary.

Courtier: Should you hire a broker when buying property in France?

The French ‘courtier‘ is usually translated as a broker, and the Notaires Association describes their role like this: “the broker is a true intermediary in banking operations. His/her role is to negotiate the best rates for you, but not only that: they will also find the most advantageous financing conditions for the realisation of your project.”

Essentially they act as an intermediary between you and the banks, so they’re only required if you need a mortgage or a loan in order to buy your French property. 

Their job is to research the best deals for you and then to help you put together your application and ensure that all your paperwork is correct – unlike the notaire, instructing a courtier is not a required part of the process, so the decision on whether to instruct one is up to you. 

So is it worth it?

Among French buyers, around 30 percent of mortgages are obtained using the services of a courtier, and this rises to 60 percent among young, first-time buyers, who generally find it harder to access credit.

Some of things to consider are your level of French and confidence in negotiating French bureaucracy, your financial situation (since French mortgage lenders tend to be stricter than those in the UK or US) and whether you currently live in France or not (since there are extra hoops to jump through for overseas buyers).

READ ALSO Is now a good time to buy a home in France?

“Things have changed,” Trevor Leggett, group president of Leggett International estate agents, told The Local. “It’s now more important than ever to work closely with a reputable broker.

“In France it is all paper-based, very old-school and extremely bureaucratic, a different world entirely to the UK. Preparing the client “dossier” so that it will be accepted is an art form.”

READ ALSO MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

He advised non-resident international clients, particularly, who may not be au fait with the French system to seek the help of a broker who knows the ropes.

“The question is no longer really about savings,” he said. “It is about finding a bank that can actually lend to the client profile, interests rate are secondary. 

“It occasionally happens that one bank can be played off against another, or to shop around, but it’s a rare event nowadays.”

READ ALSO Revealed: The ‘hidden’ extra costs when buying property in France

And he had no hesitation in recommending that prospective buyers find a broker to sort out the financing.

“The lending market has tightened for international buyers and a good one is worth their weight in gold,” he said.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: Time-frame for buying and selling property in France

In France, you make an offer on a property and then you begin the mortgage process (while in the UK it’s the other way round) so problems in getting your mortgage approved could lead to you losing your dream property.

“[Using a courtier] can be the difference between buying and not,” added Trevor.

“It’s not just any possible language barrier – but understanding the process and the different players in the market.”

How much?

The cost of hiring a courtier is borne by the buyer – but how much do they charge?

The courtier usually charges a percentage of the total mortgage amount – fees must be fixed in advance and are only payable once your mortgage application has been approved. 

Fees vary between different areas and different businesses, but the average fee is €2,000, which amounts to around one percent of the purchase price.

Many brokers set a minimum amount – around €1,500 – for smaller loans, and take a percentage of larger loans, so how much you pay depends on your property budget.