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EXPLAINED: What are the rules in France for taking paid holidays?

The Local France
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EXPLAINED: What are the rules in France for taking paid holidays?
Paddle boaders on holiday at sunset off a beach in the northwestern French city of Le Havre. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)

For many workers in France, May 31st represents the deadline before their remaining days of paid holiday or leave expire. But can you carry any over from the previous year?

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In France, the typical period for paid leave runs from June 1st of the previous year until May 31st of the current year. But in some industries, the period is different depending on the collective bargaining agreement that covers workers, and the rules regarding whether or not it is possible to carry over extra paid leave days can also depend on the company. 

It is generally not possible to carry over unused paid leave days into the following year. If your employer agrees however, or if your company has a statute allowing for a certain number of carry-over days, then you would be able to use them the following year.

READ MORE: These are the days off that workers in France are entitled to

Keep in mind that unless there is an agreement or an existing company practice providing for the deferral of paid leave days, the employer is not obliged to accept the request to carry-over leave. 

However, if you were unable to take your leave during the reference period due to an external constraint (sick leave, maternity or adoption leave, or it was made impossible due to reasons requested by your employer), then you are entitled to carry over those days into the next year.

The next thing to keep in mind is whether the May 31st deadline applies to you to begin with.

If it does apply to you, and you have realised you only have a few days left to use your remaining leave days, you should also remember that usually workers must give one month's notice before requesting leave time and it is possible for your employer to refuse your request for time off for the days you have asked for (in this case, you should request different dates).

Some sectors, like the entertainment industry, have their reference period run from April 1st of the previous year until March 31st of the current year. When you accept a job, you should check with your employer or the collective bargaining agreement that represents your industry to determine which reference period applies to you.

Once you have done that, the same general rule applies regarding carrying over leave days, unless otherwise stated. 

Understanding paid leave on your French payslip

Reading your French payslip can be a bit confusing. At the bottom, you should see a segment that says "Congés N-1" (the days of paid leave accumulated during the previous reference period) and "Congés N" (paid leave days for the current period).

If you are on the standard 25 days of paid leave each year - the legal minimum in France - for each month of work, you acquire 2.5 days of paid leave - this applies to both those with a CDD (temporary contract) and a CDI (indefinite contract). For the year, you are entitled to 25 days of paid leave in total, and that does not account for public holidays or RTT days (more on this below).

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Under Congés N, you will see the days you have acquired (aquis) and the days you have used (pris), and the value leftover (solde). 

Typically, you cannot take paid leave until you have worked at least one month at your current job. 

French labor laws also officially state that employers must allow workers to take at least 12 consecutive days holiday between May 1st and 31 October 31st each year. Often companies close for two weeks in July and August forcing employees to take time off during the summer when business is quiet.

READ MORE: How to understand your French payslip

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What about my RTT days?

Not everyone is entitled to RTT days. These were brought in when France introduced the 35 hour working week in 2000 as a measure to reduce unemployment. 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 as additional holiday time.

Some companies allow workers to take RTT days whenever they want - so just like extra holidays, whilst other companies enforce workers to take specific RTT days such as the day after Christmas or Good Friday, which are not public holidays in France.

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