France: Employee rights

Original and updating author: Mark Carley

Consultant editor: Guillaume Desmoulin, Fromont Briens

See the legal services provided by the authors/consultant editors of XpertHR International > France, including any discounts/offers for subscribers.

Summary

  • The Government has introduced measures that are relevant for employers and employees in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. (See Coronavirus - emergency measures)
  • There are various rules for employees' hours of work, including overtime, and particular restrictions for night workers and young workers. (See Hours of work)
  • Employees are entitled to minimum rest breaks, hours of rest between ending and starting work, and weekly rest periods. (See Rest breaks and rest periods)
  • Subject to certain exemptions, Sunday is a non-working day and forms part of the statutory weekly rest period. (See Sunday work)
  • There are various rules regarding minimum paid annual leave for employees and when it may be taken. (See Holidays and holiday pay)
  • Pregnant employees, new mothers and adoptive parents have various rights, including protection from dismissal. (See Maternity and pregnancy rights)
  • Qualifying employees may take parental or paternity leave. (See Parental leave)
  • Employees are entitled to take unpaid leave to look after a sick child. (See Carer's leave)
  • There are rules for various other types of leave, including leave for family events or a sabbatical. (See Other leave)
  • Part-time workers have various rights, such as to benefit from the same rights and advantages as full-time employees, on a pro rata or adapted basis where necessary. (See Part-time workers)
  • Fixed-term workers have various rights, and fixed-term contracts may be used only in certain circumstances. (See Fixed-term workers)
  • Workers posted to work in France from other countries are covered by French employment legislation. (See Posted workers)
  • When an independent economic entity is transferred to a new employer and maintains its identity, the employment contracts of employees are transferred to the new employer. (See Transfers of undertakings)
  • There are rules regarding payments for employees in the event of the employer's insolvency. (See Insolvency of employer)
  • Employees are entitled to bring grievances against the employer, and employers are allowed to impose sanctions on employees they believe guilty of misconduct at work. (See Grievance and disciplinary procedures)
  • Moral harassment, harassment and violence at work are prohibited. (See Bullying, harassment and violence)
  • There are various rules regarding the processing and use of employees' personal data. (See Data protection)
  • Employers have additional obligations in respect of teleworkers, who are defined by statute. (See Telework)
  • Employees have a "right to disconnect" from work-related technology outside working hours. (See Right to disconnect)

Coronavirus - emergency measures

The Government has lifted most of the restrictive measures it imposed to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and almost all sectors of the economy can operate relatively normally. However, faced with a rising infection rate, from 21 July 2021 the Government introduced a "health pass" scheme, whereby individuals can enter certain premises only if they can prove that they have: been fully vaccinated against coronavirus; taken a recent negative test; or recently recovered from coronavirus. The scheme currently applies to many leisure and cultural facilities, sports venues, bars, restaurants and other catering establishments, nightclubs, shopping centres and large shops, long-distance public transport, hospitals, other healthcare establishments and care homes. It is planned that the health pass scheme will run until 15 November 2021 at the latest.

From 30 August 2021, adult employees who work in establishments covered by the new rules need a health pass to attend the workplace. Employees who cannot produce a health pass, may use their entitlement to annual leave or other paid time off rather than attending work. If they choose not to do this, or have no unused entitlement to leave or time off, the employer may suspend their employment contract. In such cases, the employer and employee must discuss how to regularise the situation, for example through temporary redeployment to any premises the employer may have that are not covered by the scheme.

Since 9 June 2021, working from home (teleworking) has not been mandatory. A former obligation on employers to set a minimum number of days per week that employees should telework, if the nature of the employer's activity permitted this, ceased to apply on 31 August 2021. Since 1 September 2021, employers need only determine, in consultation with employee representatives, the arrangements to apply when teleworking is used.

Strict social-distancing and infection-control measures must be observed at work premises, and the wearing of face masks is obligatory in many work contexts, such as in open-plan offices, meeting rooms, corridors and canteens. General provisions in this area have been set out by the Ministry of Labour in a national health and safety protocol (most recently updated on 31 August 2021), while there are also measures for specific sectors and occupations. Employers must inform employees about the public authorities' test-and-trace app (TousAntiCovid) and encourage them to use it at work.

The main measure that has mitigated the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on employees is the existing statutory "partial activity" (activité partielle) scheme. This arrangement applies to employees who lose income because their employer has temporarily shut down operations or cut their working hours. In such cases, the employer pays affected employees a certain percentage of their gross normal pay for the unworked period and is then reimbursed by the public employment authorities. In response to the crisis, the Government streamlined various formalities relating to the scheme and opened it up to certain new categories of employer and employee.

The rules of the scheme have changed several times since its introduction and the current position (until the end of September 2021) is as follows:

  • Employers in the protected sectors (such as hospitality, air transport and numerous areas of entertainment, the arts, sport and leisure) receive a state contribution of 52% of the gross normal pay of employees not at work (70% in the case of employers that are highly dependent on the protected sectors and have suffered a major loss of business) and must pay the employees 70% of their gross normal pay.
  • Employers whose businesses are closed by order of the authorities or that are strongly affected by government restrictions receive a state contribution of 70% of the gross normal pay of employees not at work and must pay the employees 70% of their gross normal pay.
  • All other employers receive a state contribution of 36% of the gross normal pay of employees not at work and must pay the employees 60% of their gross normal pay.

From 1 July 2020, a new long-term partial activity scheme has been available to companies that have suffered a lasting reduction in their activity because of the pandemic but their survival is not threatened. For a fixed period, such companies can reduce employees' working hours, with the public employment authorities partially compensating the employees for their loss of earnings, in return for making a commitment to maintain jobs. The details of the arrangements must be set out in a collective agreement and be approved by the public authorities.

Other emergency measures to address the crisis include the following:

  • Employers are permitted, on the basis of a collective agreement, to require employees to take up to a week of their annual leave on particular dates, or on different dates than those already fixed. This provision lapses on 30 September 2021.
  • Normally, employers can deviate from some statutory rules on fixed-term contracts, such as those on the maximum duration and the number of renewals, on the basis of the provisions of an extended sector-level collective agreement (see Fixed-term workers). Until 30 September 2021, employers can also deviate from the statutory rules (and those set out in any applicable sector-level collective agreement) on the basis of a company-level collective agreement.
  • Employees who have been covered by the partial activity scheme because of the pandemic and lost earnings as a result may, until 30 September 2021 and on the basis of a collective agreement, exchange part of their annual leave for financial compensation. This applies only to leave in excess of the minimum statutory entitlement (see Holidays and holiday pay). Certain rest days can also be exchanged for cash in this way. An employee may cash in a total of no more than five days of annual leave and/or rest days. In addition, in the case of employers particularly hard hit by pandemic-related closures in sectors such as hospitality, the Government will, under certain conditions, meet the cost of up to 10 days' annual leave that employees took from 1 January to 7 March 2021 while the employer's business was closed.
  • Employees who are medically certified as having a high risk of developing a severe form of coronavirus that makes it impossible for them to work (notably due to underlying health conditions) may claim benefits under the statutory partial activity scheme (the eligibility rules in this area were tightened from 1 September 2020). Employees who are in this position receive special protection from dismissal.
  • Employees who cannot work (even remotely) because they have care responsibilities for a child under the age of 16 who cannot go to school for reasons related to the pandemic are covered by the statutory partial activity scheme.

Further information is available (in French) from the Ministry of Labour.

Vaccination and testing

At present, coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccinations are not mandatory for any group of the population. Under the Labour Code, mandatory vaccinations for employees are permitted only where required under the Public Health Code. Currently, this applies only to vaccinations for diseases such as hepatitis B, tetanus, polio and typhoid for specific groups of medical, care and laboratory employees. Within this current legislative framework, employers therefore cannot make employee coronavirus vaccination compulsory, backed with disciplinary sanctions. However, to fulfil their health and safety obligations, it is very likely to be advisable for employers to encourage employees to have the coronavirus vaccination, especially in high-risk sectors such as health and personal care.

Under legislation adopted in August 2021, from 15 September 2021, coronavirus vaccinations will be compulsory for employees working in certain establishments, notably hospitals, other healthcare establishments and services, and care homes for elderly and disabled people. Individuals in close contact with elderly and disabled people in other settings will also be covered. Relevant employees who cannot provide proof of vaccination will have their employment contracts suspended.

From 9 August 2021, all employees are entitled to the necessary paid time off work to receive coronavirus vaccinations. The national health and safety protocol (see above) states that employees and employers should discuss the best way to arrange this time off. Occupational medicine services in all companies may, if the employer so chooses, provide coronavirus vaccinations for employees, as part of the overall public campaign, and the Government encourages employers to inform employees about this option of being vaccinated at work.

The national protocol states that employers may make lateral flow-type rapid tests available to employees on a strictly voluntary basis. If a test is positive, the employee must self-isolate at home and take a confirmatory PCR test.

Hours of work

Definition

"Effective" working time is defined by law as any time that the employee is at the employer's disposal and obliged to follow the employer's instructions, and not free to pursue their own personal activities.

If employees are required to wear work clothing, and to dress and undress at the employer's premises or the workplace, the employer must compensate them for the time spent dressing and undressing, in the form of either time off in lieu or a payment. A company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement should set the level of compensation or, instead of such compensation, provide that dressing and undressing times count as effective working time. In the absence of any collective agreement on the subject, the employment contract must deal with these issues.

Time spent by an employee travelling to their place of work is not considered effective working time. However, if this time exceeds the normal time spent by an employee travelling from home to their normal place of work, the employer must compensate the employee, in the form of either time off in lieu or a payment. A company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement should set the level of compensation in such cases: in the absence of any collective agreement on the issue, the employer sets the compensation, after consulting employee representatives.

A "stand-by period" is a period during which an employee, while not being at the workplace and permanently and immediately at the employer's disposal, must be available to perform work for the employer, when called on. The time spent actually performing work counts as effective working time, while the employer must compensate the employee for the stand-by period, in the form of either time off in lieu or a payment. Except for time spent actually performing work, stand-by periods are considered as part of the employee's statutory minimum daily and weekly rest periods (see Rest breaks and rest periods).

A company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement may provide for the use of stand-by periods. This agreement must deal with the organisation of stand-by periods, the compensation, and the information and notice for employees. In the absence of any collective agreement on the subject, the employer decides on the organisation and compensation of stand-by periods, after consulting employee representatives and informing the Labour Inspectorate, while various statutory rules apply on information and notice for employees.

Maximum working hours

An employee's total daily working time (including overtime) must not generally exceed 10 hours, except where authorised by the Labour Inspectorate - this may apply in cases such as seasonal work, or activities with workload peaks - or in emergencies. However, a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement may allow for total daily working time of up to 12 hours in the event of increased workload or for reasons linked to the organisation of the business.

Total weekly working time (including overtime) must not exceed 48 hours, except where authorised by the Labour Inspectorate in exceptional circumstances, in which case a 60-hour maximum applies. Over a consecutive period of 12 weeks, total weekly working time must not generally exceed 44 hours on average. However, a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement may allow for total weekly working time of up to 46 hours on average over a consecutive period of 12 weeks. In the absence of any collective agreement on the issue, the Labour Inspectorate may authorise total weekly working time of up to 46 hours on average over a consecutive period of 12 weeks. In cases where average weekly working time of up to 46 hours is permitted (by collective agreement or authorisation), the public authorities may permit the 46-hour average to be exceeded temporarily, on an exceptional basis, in certain specific sectors, regions or companies. (See Coronavirus - emergency measures for temporary measures introduced in response to the coronavirus outbreak).

Normal and overtime hours

Statutory normal working time is set at 35 hours a week. Any working time in excess of 35 hours a week is considered overtime, and entitles the employee to a premium rate of pay or, in certain cases, equivalent time off in lieu. Overtime is calculated on a weekly basis.

Employees are subject to an "annual contingent" of overtime hours. Any overtime worked in excess of the annual contingent generally entitles the employee to compensatory time off in lieu. However, where an employee works overtime and this is compensated in the form of equivalent time off in lieu, the hours concerned do not count toward the employee's annual contingent - this is also the case where an employee works overtime in emergency situations.

The primary role in setting rules on overtime is given to collective bargaining. A company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement should establish:

  • the annual contingent of overtime hours;
  • the pay premium for overtime hours within the annual contingent - this collectively agreed premium must be at least 10% on top of normal pay; and
  • the conditions under which overtime may be worked in excess of the annual contingent, and the rules on the compensatory time off in lieu to be granted for working such hours - this time off must represent at least 50% of the excess hours worked in the case of companies with 20 or fewer employees, and at least 100% in the case of companies with more than 20 employees.

A company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement may also provide for overtime hours worked up to the annual contingent to be compensated with time off in lieu rather than a premium pay rate.

Where a collective agreement on overtime is in place, the employer must inform employee representatives about overtime worked up to the annual contingent, and consult them about overtime worked in excess of the contingent.

The following statutory provisions apply in the absence of a collective agreement on the issues concerned:

  • the annual overtime contingent is set at 220 hours per employee per year;
  • the pay premium for overtime hours within the annual contingent must be at least 25% on top of normal pay for the first eight hours of weekly overtime, and at least 50% for any further hours of overtime in a week;
  • overtime hours worked in excess of the annual contingent must be compensated with time off equivalent to 50% of the excess hours worked in the case of companies with 20 or fewer employees, and at least 100% in the case of companies with more than 20 employees; and
  • if there are no trade union delegates (see France: Industrial relations > Trade unions) in the company, the employer may compensate overtime hours worked up to the annual contingent with equivalent time off in lieu rather than a premium pay rate, if this is not opposed by employee representatives.

Flexible working time arrangements

The standard working time arrangement is a 35-hour normal week, with weekly hours in excess of 35 hours considered as overtime (see above). However, under certain circumstances, working time can be organised flexibly over a reference period longer than a week, with normal weekly hours varying around an average of 35 hours during this reference period. Where such hours-averaging arrangements apply, overtime is calculated in relation to the reference period concerned, rather than a single week, and the employee is in principle compensated for the overtime at the end of the reference period.

A company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement may provide for working time to be organised over a reference period longer than a week. Where such an agreement is in place, the following rules apply:

  • The agreement must establish the reference period, which must not exceed one year or, where stipulated or permitted by a sector-level collective agreement, three years.
  • The agreement must deal with matters such as notice for employees about changes to their working hours. In all cases where working time is organised over a reference period longer than a week, the employer must give the employees reasonable notice of any change to their working hours.
  • Where the reference period set by the agreement is one year, hours worked in excess of 1,607 hours per year are generally considered to be overtime and compensated as such (though an agreement may set a threshold lower than 1,607 hours). Where the reference period is more or less than one year, hours worked in excess of an average of 35 hours per week, calculated over the reference period, are considered to be overtime and compensated as such.
  • While employees are in principle compensated for overtime at the end of the reference period, if this period is more than one year, the collective agreement must stipulate a weekly working time limit (over 35 hours) beyond which any hours worked in that week are considered overtime, and compensated as such during the month concerned (thus employees do not have to wait until the end of the reference period to be paid overtime rates for these hours). Any such overtime hours are not compensated for at the end of the reference period. A collective agreement may also provide for such an arrangement if the reference period is one year or less (though this is not obligatory).

In the absence of a collective agreement on the issue, an employer may unilaterally decide to organise working time over a reference period longer than a week. In such cases, the following rules apply:

  • The maximum reference period is nine weeks for companies employing fewer than 50 employees and four weeks for companies employing 50 or more employees, though there is no maximum for companies that are involved in continuous, round-the-clock operations.
  • The employer must give the employees at least seven days' notice of any change to their working hours.
  • Hours worked in excess of an average of 35 hours per week, calculated over the reference period, are considered to be overtime and compensated as such. Further, any hours worked in excess of 39 hours in a single week are considered overtime and compensated as such (any such hours are not counted towards the calculation of whether or not the employee has worked overtime over the whole reference period).
  • The employer must consult employee representatives about the planned variations in working hours during the reference period.

Employees are entitled to request "individualised" working hours, a form of flexitime whereby - while still working the normal number of hours - they may vary their daily starting and finishing times, while always being present at work within any defined core hours. Such arrangements may result in employees carrying over working time credits and debits from one week to another. Where an employee works more than 35 hours in a week because they have chosen to carry hours over from a previous week, this does not count as overtime.

In companies with employee representatives (see France: Industrial relations > Informing and consulting employees - general), the employer may introduce individualised working hours, at the request of the employee or employees concerned, as long as the representatives do not oppose this move. In companies without employee representatives, the employer may introduce individualised working hours, at the request of the employee or employees concerned, only with the permission of the Labour Inspectorate.

Where individualised working hours are in place, a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement may lay down rules on the carrying over of working time credits and debits from one week to another. In the absence of a collective agreement on the issue, no more than three hours may be carried over, and an employee must not accumulate a total credit or debit of more than 10 hours.

"Inclusive" working time arrangements

As an exception to the usual rules on normal and overtime hours (see above), employees may sign "inclusive" working time agreements (conventions de forfait) with their employer, which assume that a certain amount of overtime will be worked over a certain period and that this extra work will be remunerated automatically as part of the employee's salary. Such agreements are individual and must be in writing. An inclusive agreement may be based on the employee working a certain total number of hours over a week, month or year (an hourly-based inclusive agreement), or working a certain total number of days over a year (a daily-based inclusive agreement).

Any employee may sign an hourly-based inclusive agreement relating to their working time on a weekly or monthly basis. Only the following employees may sign an hourly-based inclusive agreement relating to their working time on an annual basis:

  • executives whose work is such of a nature that they cannot follow the collective working hours schedule applicable in their workplace, department or team; and
  • employees who have genuine independence in the way that they organise the use of their time.

An employee covered by an hourly-based inclusive agreement must receive at least the minimum remuneration applicable in the company for the total number of hours stipulated in the agreement, including the relevant premium for overtime hours included in the total.

Only the following employees may sign a daily-based inclusive agreement:

  • executives who have independence in the way that they organise the use of their time, and whose work is of such a nature that they cannot follow the collective working hours schedule applicable in their workplace, department or team; and
  • employees whose working time cannot be predetermined and who have genuine independence in the way that they organise the use of their time in order to perform their duties.

A daily-based inclusive agreement provides that the employee will work a certain number of the days over the year, and have a certain number of rest days. However, the employee may agree (in writing) with the employer to forgo a certain number of rest days, in return for an enhanced rate of pay for working on these days. This premium must be at least 10% on top of the normal rate.

The employer must ensure, on a regular basis, that employees covered by daily-based inclusive agreements have a reasonable workload. Such employees are entitled to remuneration that is commensurate with the constraints imposed by the arrangement.

Employees who have signed daily-based inclusive agreements are not covered by the statutory limits on maximum total daily and weekly working hours (10 hours and 48 hours respectively), or the statutory normal working week (35 hours). However, they remain covered by the mandatory requirements relating to daily (11 consecutive hours) and weekly (35 consecutive hours) rest periods.

Only the individual agreement of the employee concerned is required for the use of hourly-based inclusive arrangements relating to weekly or monthly working time. However, if an employer wishes to use daily-based inclusive arrangements or hourly-based inclusive arrangements relating to annual working time, in addition to the individual employee's agreement, this must be authorised by a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement. Such collective agreements must stipulate matters including:

  • the specific categories of employee who can sign individual inclusive agreements (within the broad categories set by statute - see above);
  • the total number of hours or days that employees may work under inclusive agreements - in the case of daily-based agreements, the maximum is 218 days a year;
  • the main characteristics of the inclusive arrangements;
  • the twelve consecutive months that comprise the reference period during which a certain amount of overtime or days will be worked; and
  • the effect on an employee's remuneration of joining or leaving the company, or being absent, during the course of a reference period.

Collective agreements authorising daily-based inclusive agreements should also stipulate:

  • the ways in which the employer will monitor regularly the workload of the employees concerned;
  • the ways in which the employer and the employees concerned will communicate periodically about the employees' workload, work-life balance and remuneration, and about work organisation in the company; and
  • the ways in which the employees concerned can exercise their "right to disconnect" (see Right to disconnect).

If the collective agreement concerned is silent on the issues listed above, the employer of an employee who has signed an individual daily-based inclusive agreement must:

  • keep records of the days or half-days worked by the employee (usually on a monthly basis);
  • ensure that the employee's workload is reasonable and compatible with respect to their daily and weekly rest periods;
  • organise an annual meeting with the employee to discuss their workload, work organisation, work-life balance and remuneration; and
  • define the methods by which the employee can exercise the "right to disconnect" and inform the employee about these methods (in companies with 50 or more employees, these methods must comply with the employer's charter on the right to disconnect - see Right to disconnect).

Collective agreements authorising daily-based inclusive agreements may stipulate the maximum number of working days per year in cases where an employee chooses to forgo some of their rest days. If the collective agreement fails to do so, a statutory maximum of 235 working days per year applies.

Night work

Employees may work at night only when this is permitted by an applicable collective agreement or specifically authorised by the Labour Inspectorate. The principle is that night work should be allowed only in exceptional cases, where it is necessary to ensure the continuity of economic activity or the provision of socially useful services.

Night workers are defined by statute as employees who:

  • normally perform at least three hours of night work (see below) on at least two days per week; or
  • perform a certain minimum number of hours of night work during a reference period - unless a collective agreement provides otherwise (see below), the minimum is 270 hours over a reference period of 12 consecutive months.

Night workers must not generally work more than eight hours a day and 40 hours a week, calculated on average over a reference period of 12 consecutive weeks. However, these limits may be exceeded where permitted by a collective agreement or authorised by the Labour Inspectorate (see below).

The introduction of night work in a company or establishment (or the extension of night work to the categories of employee) generally requires a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement. Such a collective agreement must include:

  • the reasons justifying the use of night work (these must be related to continuity of economic activity or the provision of socially useful services);
  • a definition of the night work period - this must be a period of at least nine consecutive hours, starting no earlier than 9pm and ending no later than 7am, that includes the period between midnight and 5am;
  • compensation for night workers in the form of time off and/or, where applicable, additional remuneration;
  • measures to improve night workers' working conditions;
  • measures to help night workers to balance their night work with their personal lives and family and social responsibilities;
  • measures to ensure gender equality, notably in terms of access to training; and
  • provisions on the organisation of rest breaks.

The collective agreement on night work may also:

  • stipulate the minimum number of hours of night work that an employee must perform during a reference period in order to be deemed a night worker (see above);
  • allow night workers to work more than eight hours a day in certain circumstances; and
  • allow night workers to work more than 40 hours a week, up to a maximum of 44 hours (calculated on average over a reference period of 12 consecutive weeks), if this is justified by the particular characteristics of the industry concerned.

In the absence of a collective agreement on the issue, the Labour Inspectorate may authorise night work under certain circumstances. This is possible only where the employer has made honest and serious (though unsuccessful) efforts to negotiate a collective agreement on night work. Before authorising night work, the Labour Inspectorate will check that matters such as compensation for night workers (night workers must be compensated for working at night in the form of time off and/or, where applicable, additional remuneration) have been arranged satisfactorily. In such cases of authorised night work, the following rules apply:

  • night work is defined as any work performed between 9pm and 6am, or during some other period set by the Labour Inspectorate in view of the particular characteristics of the activity concerned;
  • a night worker is an employee who normally performs at least three hours of night work (see below) on at least two days per week, or performs at least 270 hours of night work over a reference period of 12 consecutive months;
  • the Labour Inspectorate may authorise night workers to work more than eight hours a day, in exceptional circumstances; and
  • the Labour Inspectorate may authorise night workers to work more than 40 hours a week, up to a maximum of 44 hours (calculated on average over a reference period of 12 consecutive weeks), in particular sectors.

Employers must consult the occupational physician about all important decisions relating to the introduction of night work, or changes in its organisation.

The health of night workers must be monitored regularly. If the occupational physician finds this is necessary for health reasons, the employer must transfer a night worker permanently or temporarily to a job involving day work that corresponds to the worker's qualifications and is as comparable as possible to their night work job. The employer cannot dismiss a night worker on grounds of unfitness for their night work job unless it is impossible to transfer the worker to an appropriate day work job, or the worker refuses such a job.

If night work is incompatible with an employee's "imperative" family obligations - such as the care of a child or dependant - the employee may request a transfer to day work, and their refusal to work at night must not be considered as misconduct or a reason for dismissal.

A night worker who wants to switch to day work (or a day worker who wants to switch to night work) must be given priority when a relevant job in their occupational category, or an equivalent job, becomes available, and the employer must alert the worker about such jobs.

Special rules on night work apply to retail outlets in international tourist zones, and to the media and entertainment industries.

Record keeping

If all employees in the same department or team have the same collective work schedule, the employer is not required to record their actual working hours, unless employees work overtime or perform standby duty, in which case these hours must be recorded. If employees in a department or team do not all have the same collective work schedule, the employer must record each employee's actual daily and weekly hours, including any overtime or standby duty. Where an employee is covered by an hourly-based inclusive working time arrangement (see "Inclusive" working time arrangements), the employer must monitor the employees' actual hours. Where an employee is covered by a daily-based inclusive working time arrangement, the employer must record the days and half-days the employee worked.

Exceptions

Managing executives are not covered by the above statutory rules on the duration and organisation of working time, overtime, inclusive working time arrangements and night work. Managing executives are defined as executives who:

  • have responsibilities that are important enough to entail major independence in the way that they organise the use of their time;
  • are empowered to take decisions in a largely autonomous way; and
  • receive remuneration at one of the highest levels in the remuneration system used in the company or establishment concerned.

Special working time rules apply to workers under the age of 18 (see France: Recruitment and selection > Young people and children).

Rest breaks and rest periods

Employees must not work for more than six hours without being granted a rest break of at least 20 minutes. A company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement may provide for longer rest breaks. Rest breaks are not considered as "effective" working time (see Hours of work) and employees therefore have no statutory entitlement to be paid during the breaks. A company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement, may provide for employees to be paid during rest breaks, even where these are not recognised as effective working time. In the absence of any collective agreement on the subject, the employment contract may provide for payment during rest breaks.

If, during rest breaks, an employee is at the employer's disposal and obliged to follow the employer's instructions, and not free to pursue their own personal activities, this time is counted as effective working time and paid as such.

Employees must generally be granted a daily rest period of at least 11 consecutive hours. Exceptions are permitted, at the employer's initiative, in cases where employees are required to carry out emergency work whose immediate performance is necessary to organise rescue operations, prevent accidents or repair damage caused by accidents. Further, a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement may provide for a shorter daily rest period, but no less than nine hours, in the event of a temporary increase in workload. Such agreements are possible only in certain types of activity, such as:

  • activities where the employee's workplace and home are distant from one another, or the employee has more than one workplace and they are distant from one another;
  • security, guarding and surveillance activities requiring a permanent presence;
  • activities involving a need for continuity of service or production, particularly in establishments using shiftwork;
  • certain transport activities; and
  • activities involving periods of work split up over the day.

Where there is no collective agreement on the issue, in the event of a temporary increase in workload, an employer may seek authorisation from the Labour Inspectorate to reduce employees' daily rest period below 11 hours. (See Coronavirus - emergency measures for temporary measures introduced in response to the coronavirus outbreak).

In all the above cases where employees do not have their full minimum daily rest period, they must be granted equivalent compensatory rest at some other time.

Employees may not be required to work more than six days a week. They are entitled to a weekly rest period of at least 24 consecutive hours, in principle on Sunday (see Sunday work). This weekly rest period must be immediately preceded or followed by a minimum 11-hour daily rest period, giving employees an effective entitlement to a minimum weekly rest period of 35 hours. Exemptions or variations may apply to certain activities or in certain circumstances, For example:

  • Where employees are required to perform emergency work whose immediate performance is necessary to organise rescue operations, prevent accidents or repair damage caused by accidents, they may be required to work during their weekly rest period. In such cases, the employees concerned must be granted compensatory rest, equal to the missed part of the weekly rest period, at some other time.
  • In certain industries that deal with perishable materials or extraordinary peaks in workload, employees may be required to work during their weekly rest period. This may occur no more than twice in any month and six times in any year. The hours worked during the weekly rest period must be treated as overtime (see Hours of work).
  • In certain seasonal activities, and certain establishments that are fully open only at certain times of the year (such as some hotels and restaurants), the employer can defer part of employees' weekly rest period until a later date, as long as the employees have at least two rest days per month, as far as possible falling on a Sunday.
  • In industrial establishments that operate on a continuous basis, the employer can defer part of an employees' weekly rest period until a later date, as long as the employees have at least one 24-hour rest day per week on average over a reference period (for example four rest days in each four-week period), as far as possible falling on a Sunday.
  • Where all employees in an establishment are granted their weekly rest day on the same day, and maintenance or cleaning work must necessarily be carried out on this day in order to avoid a delay in the subsequent restart of operations, then the employees who carry out the maintenance or cleaning work may be required to work a half-day on the rest day. In such cases, the employees concerned must be granted compensatory rest at some other time, in the form of a full rest day for every two half-days worked.

Managing executives (see Hours of work) are not covered by the above statutory rules on rest breaks and daily and weekly rest periods.

Special rules on rest breaks and daily and weekly rest periods apply to workers under the age of 18 (see France: Recruitment and selection > Young people and children).

Sunday work

In principle, Sunday is a non-working day and forms part of the statutory weekly rest period (see Rest breaks and rest periods). However, various exemptions apply.

Employees may be required to work on Sundays, without any requirement for a collective agreement on the issue or specific authorisation by the public authorities, in establishments whose operation or opening on Sunday is necessary because of production or activity constraints, or because of the needs of the public. In such establishments, employees may be granted their weekly rest day on different days of the week, in rotation, therefore working Sundays in some weeks. The establishments concerned include hotels, restaurants and bars, and those involved in activities such as making food products for immediate consumption, healthcare, various means of transport, cultural and sporting activities, telecommunications, and production and distribution of energy. In such establishments, employees have no statutory entitlement to a pay premium or other special compensation for working on Sundays (these matters may be dealt with by an applicable collective agreement or the employment contract).

Employees may be required to work until 1pm on Sundays, without any requirement for a collective agreement on the issue or specific authorisation by the public authorities, in food shops. Employees who work on Sundays must be granted a full day of compensatory rest every two weeks. In food shops with a floor area of more than 400 square metres, employees have a statutory entitlement to a pay premium of at least 30% on top of their normal rate for working on Sundays. In food shops with a floor area of 400 square metres or less, employees have no statutory entitlement to a pay premium or other special compensation for working on Sundays (these matters may be dealt with by an applicable collective agreement or the employment contract).

In industrial establishments, a collective agreement may provide for continuous all week-round working for economic reasons, with employees granted their weekly rest day on different days of the week, in rotation, therefore working Sundays in some weeks. In the absence of such an agreement, the Labour Inspectorate may authorise such working arrangements in certain circumstances. In industrial establishments, a collective agreement may also provide for a "relief shift" made up of employees who replace other employees on their weekly rest days. Members of the relief shift are granted their weekly rest day on a day other than Sunday. When they work on Sundays, they are entitled to a pay premium of at least 50% on top of the normal rate for the work concerned. In the absence of such an agreement, the Labour Inspectorate may authorise a relief shift in certain circumstances.

Public authorities in particular areas - this may be the local mayor, or the prefect of the department concerned, depending on the case - may authorise Sunday work in certain types of establishment in certain circumstances.

A prefect may, on request, authorise Sunday working in an establishment, all year round or at certain times, on the grounds that it would damage the public interest, or compromise the normal operation of the establishment, for all the employees to have their weekly rest day on Sunday. The authorisation may allow various alternatives, such as: all employees having their rest day on another day of the week; rotating rest days for all or some employees; a rest day running from noon on Sunday to noon on Monday; or work until 1pm on Sundays, with compensatory rest at some other time. Authorisations last for up to three years.

The prefect can authorise Sunday working in the above establishments only if its introduction is based on a collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, has been approved in a ballot among the employees. Where there is a collective agreement on Sunday work in such establishments, it must contain provisions on certain issues, notably the compensation for the employees involved. In the absence of a collective agreement, a relevant employer wishing to introduce Sunday working must, after consulting employee representatives, draw up a proposal, including matters such as the compensation for the employees involved, and have this proposal approved in a ballot among the employees affected by the Sunday working. The minimum compensation for employees in such cases is double their normal pay rate for hours worked on Sunday, plus compensatory time off.

Where the prefect authorises Sunday working in an establishment on the above grounds (whether based on a collective agreement or a ballot), only employees who have voluntarily consented in writing to do so may work on Sundays. Employees who refuse to work on Sundays must not suffer discrimination because of their refusal, and refusal must not be considered as misconduct or a reason for dismissal. Relevant employers cannot refuse to recruit someone on the grounds that they refuse to work on Sundays. Employees who do work on Sundays receive various guarantees, for example in terms of ceasing Sunday work. In cases where Sunday working is not based on a collective agreement, employees who work on Sundays are entitled not to work on three Sundays of their choice per year.

A mayor may decide to allow employees of non-food shops in a particular locality to work on 12 designated Sundays in a year. The employees who work on Sundays must receive at least double their normal pay rate, plus compensatory time off. Sunday working must be voluntary and employees who refuse to do such work receive the same protection as employees who refuse to work on Sundays in establishments where this is authorised by a prefect (see above).

Finally, Sunday working may be permitted in shops located in designated "tourist areas" and "international tourist areas", and certain major retail parks and railway stations. No specific authorisation by the public authorities is required, but there must be a collective agreement allowing Sunday working, except in small shops (see below). In relevant shops, some employees may, in rotation, work on Sundays and be granted their weekly rest day on a different day of the week. The collective agreement permitting Sunday working must include provisions on certain issues, including the compensation for employees working on Sundays. Sunday working must be voluntary and employees who refuse to do such work receive the same protection as employees who refuse to work on Sundays in establishments where this is authorised by a prefect (see above).

In relevant shops with fewer than 11 employees, in the absence of a collective agreement, Sunday working may be introduced after the employer has consulted the employees concerned and a majority of them have approved the compensation offered for Sunday working.

Special rules on Sunday work apply to workers under the age of 18 (see France: Recruitment and selection > Young people and children).

Holidays and holiday pay

All employees are entitled to paid leave. The statutory entitlement is to 2.5 working days of holiday per month of service with the employer, which equals 30 days a year. Working days include all days of the week except Sundays and public holidays, so the annual leave entitlement amounts to five weeks. The entitlement may also be calculated on the basis of a five-day week, as long as this gives the employee the same number of days normally worked off - ie 2.08 days per month and 25 days or five weeks per year. Part-time workers have the same rights as full-time workers, adjusted for their shorter working day or week. Working parents who were under the age of 21 on 30 April in the previous year are entitled to two additional days of annual leave per child in their care. A child is deemed to be in the employee's care if the child lives at home and is under the age of 15 on 30 April in the current year (there is no upper age limit if the child has a disability). Collective agreements may provide for additional days' leave based on age, seniority or disability.

Annual leave entitlement accrues during periods such as maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave and training leave, although not during sickness absence (unless this is provided for by a collective agreement).

Each year, employees must take most of their annual leave within a specified "holiday period". The dates of this period, which must include the period between 1 May and 31 October, and the rules on when employees may take their leave within this period, should be stipulated by a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, by a sector-level collective agreement (see France: Industrial relations > Collective bargaining). Where there is no collective agreement dealing with the matter, the employer sets the holiday period and fixes the dates for employees' leave, after consulting employee representatives. (See Coronavirus - emergency measures for temporary measures introduced in response to the coronavirus outbreak).

In fixing leave dates, the employer must take into account factors such as the employee's family situation (for example, spouses or civil partners working for the same employer are entitled to simultaneous leave), care responsibilities and seniority. The employer must inform employees of their annual leave dates at least one month before the leave starts, although, once set, dates can be varied with one month's notice (or less in certain exceptional circumstances).

Annual paid leave should in principle be taken in two tranches: a main holiday of four weeks (24 working days) and an additional holiday of one week (six working days). The main holiday may be broken up into shorter periods of leave, by agreement between employer and employee, but there must always be one continuous period of at least 12 working days. If the main holiday is broken up, the rules on when the continuous period of at least 12 days, and the remainder of the main holiday, may be taken should be stipulated in a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, in a sector-level collective agreement. Where there is no collective agreement dealing with the matter, the continuous period of at least 12 days must be taken between 1 May and 31 October, while the remainder of the main holiday may be taken (in one or several periods) at any time during the year. If the employee takes three or more days of the remaining holiday outside the period from 1 May and 31 October, the employee is entitled to additional annual leave (one additional day if three to five days are taken outside this period and two additional days if six or more days are taken outside this period).

The employer decides when the additional one-week holiday (that is, the fifth week of annual leave) is taken. This may be outside the holiday period.

Annual holidays should in principle be taken during the year in question, and usually during the holiday period. Some entitlement may be carried over by individual or collective agreement, while only in rare cases may holiday be sold back rather than taken.

In respect of their annual leave, employees are entitled to receive whichever is greater: either the normal remuneration they would have received if they had been at work; or one-tenth of their total remuneration over the period between 1 June in the previous year and 31 May in the current year.

There are currently 11 official public holidays per year: 1 January; Easter Monday; 1 May (Labour Day); 8 May (commemoration of the end of the Second World War); Ascension Day; Whit Monday; 14 July (National Day); 15 August (the Assumption); 1 November (All Saints' Day); 11 November (Armistice Day); and 25 December.

The law does not require employees to be given a day off on public holidays, except 1 May (see below), with the exception of workers under the age of 18 (although young workers may, on the basis of a collective agreement, work on public holidays in sectors such as hotels, restaurants and food production). A company- or establishment-level collective agreement, or in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement, should stipulate the public holidays on which employees have a day off. In the absence of such an agreement, the employer decides on this issue. In practice, based on collective agreements and custom, all public holidays are not working days.

With the exception of 1 May (see below), if a public holiday falls on a day not normally worked, the employee receives neither pay nor time off in lieu. If a public holiday falls on a day normally worked and the employee works, there is no statutory right to a premium rate of pay or compensatory time off, although this may be required by a collective agreement. If a public holiday falls on a day normally worked and the employee is granted a day off, they are entitled to receive their normal pay if they have three months' service in the company. Collective agreements may improve on these conditions.

On 1 May, employees must receive a day's paid holiday (with no length-of-service requirement), except those working in establishments and services whose activity cannot be interrupted (eg hospitals and transport). This does not apply if 1 May falls during the weekly rest period or on a day not normally worked. Employees working on 1 May are entitled to a pay premium of 100%.

Legislation provides for an annual "solidarity day", an additional day of work for which employees receive no pay. Instead, the money they would have earned is paid into a fund to finance measures to assist old and disabled people, to which employers must also make a contribution of 0.3% of paybill. A company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement should set out the arrangements for implementing the solidarity day. Such an agreement may provide for:

  • the solidarity day to fall on any public holiday apart from 1 May; or
  • employees to work unpaid on a day off due to them under a working-time flexibility scheme (see Hours of work); or
  • any other arrangement that involves employees working (unpaid) for seven hours not otherwise worked.

In companies not covered by a collective agreement on the issue, the employer decides how to implement the solidarity day, after consultation of employee representatives.

Maternity and pregnancy rights

Pregnant employees are entitled to 16 weeks of maternity leave, six weeks before the birth and 10 weeks afterwards. If the birth is earlier than expected, the unused antenatal leave is added to the postnatal leave. Employees are free to take a shorter maternity leave, but are obliged to take at least eight weeks, six weeks of which must be after the birth. Further, employees may reduce the antenatal portion of leave by up to three weeks and increase the postnatal portion accordingly, if this is approved by their doctor. In the event of the birth of a third or subsequent child, maternity leave entitlement increases to 26 weeks, eight weeks before the birth and 18 weeks afterwards. In the case of multiple births, the postnatal leave entitlement is extended to 22 weeks and the antenatal entitlement to 12 weeks in the case of twins, or 24 weeks in the case of triplets or more.

Pregnant employees may be moved to another position, without loss of pay, if this is necessary to protect their health, at their own request or at the initiative of the employer. Pregnant and breastfeeding workers are forbidden from performing certain jobs involving exposure to dangerous substances and processes. Night workers who are pregnant or who have recently given birth must be switched to day work, without loss of pay, at their own request or if ordered by the works doctor.

During maternity leave, employees are entitled (if they meet certain minimum social insurance requirements, such as 10 months' registration) to statutory maternity benefit, paid by the social security system. The benefit is calculated as a daily amount, based on the employee's average basic pay over the preceding three months, minus employee social security contributions, up to a ceiling. In 2021, the maximum daily benefit is €89.03 (previously €87.71). The employer is not obliged by law to pay employees during maternity leave, but collective agreements may provide for the statutory maternity benefit to be topped up to full pay by the employer.

Following maternity leave, employees must be able to return to their previous position or an equivalent one (with no loss of pay), and are entitled to a meeting with their employer to discuss their career development. They are also entitled to benefit from any pay increases awarded in their absence.

Employees may not be subject to dismissal or discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy. They may not be dismissed while pregnant, nor in the 10 weeks following maternity leave, except for serious misconduct unrelated to the pregnancy or some other reason unrelated to the pregnancy that makes it impossible for the employer to continue with the employment contract. During maternity leave, dismissal is forbidden on any grounds.

Pregnant employees and those who have recently given birth are entitled to time off without loss of pay to attend necessary antenatal and postnatal medical appointments. The spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner of such an employee is entitled to time off without loss of pay to attend up to three of these appointments.

Adoptive parents are entitled to 10 weeks of adoptive leave. This increases to 18 weeks if the adoption brings the number of children in the household to three or more, and 22 weeks in the event of multiple adoptions. Where there are two adoptive parents, they may share the leave, in which case its total duration is increased by 11 days (18 days for multiple adoptions). A statutory benefit, calculated as for maternity benefit, is payable during adoptive leave, shared between the parents if they share the leave. Adoptive parents enjoy similar protection from dismissal as pregnant employees and women who have recently given birth.

Parental leave

Employees with at least one year's service with their employer are entitled to take parental leave, following the end of the mother's maternity leave, up until the child's third birthday. Alternatively, they may opt to work part time (working a minimum of 16 hours a week) for the same period. The leave, or part-time work, runs for an initial one-year period, renewable twice. If the child has a severe illness or disability, the leave may be extended for another year. Similar parental leave rights apply in the case of adoption.

In the case of multiple births, parental leave may be taken up until the children enter nursery school (this may be at any age from three to six years). In the event of the multiple birth of three or more children (or the simultaneous adoption of three or more children), the initial one-year period of leave is renewable up to five times, until the children's sixth birthday at the latest.

Employees intending to take parental leave, or work part time, must inform their employer at least one month in advance if the leave is to follow on immediately from maternity leave, or two months in advance if the leave is taken at any other time. If the period of leave is to be renewed after the first year, the employee must inform the employer at least one month in advance.

Where parents opt to work part time, the employee and employer should agree on the organisation of their working time, with the employer making the decision if no agreement can be reached, subject to a requirement of reasonableness.

During parental leave, or parental part-time work, the employment contract is suspended and there is no obligation on the employer to pay the employee (during the unworked hours, in the case of part-time work), although collective agreements may provide for some proportion of the wage to be paid. Employees on parental leave or working part time may be entitled to a statutory benefit, paid by the social security system. The rate and duration of benefit depends on the employee's situation, the number of children in the family and the duration of parental leave: for example, a higher rate of benefit is payable if only one year of leave is taken, while there are incentives for both parents to take leave (at the same time or consecutively) and share responsibility for raising the child.

Employees may not be dismissed on the ground of taking parental leave. Following parental leave, or parental part-time work, employees must be able to return to their previous position or an equivalent one (with no loss of pay), and are entitled to receive any necessary training. Employees are also entitled to have a meeting with their employer, either at the end of parental leave or before their return to work. At the meeting, the employer and employee must discuss the organisation of the employee's return to work and issues such as training needs and any consequences of the parental leave for the employee's pay and career development.

Employees who do not have the one year's service with their employer required for entitlement to parental leave may, following maternity leave, terminate their employment contract in order to take time off to look after their child. In the following year, such employees have priority when the employer recruits for positions for which the employee is qualified.

Fathers are entitled to take 25 days of paternity leave, or 32 days in the case of multiple births, in addition to the three days of paid leave to which all employees are entitled on the birth of a child (see Other leave). Four days of the paternity leave are compulsory and must be taken consecutively immediately after the three days of "birth leave", while the remaining leave may be taken during the six months after the birth, in a single block or in two blocks lasting at least five days each. The employee must give the employer one month's notice of intention to take the leave.

The above rules on paternity leave apply to children born on or after 1 July 2021. In respect of children born before this date, fathers could take 11 days of paternity leave, or 18 days in the case of multiple births, during the four months after the birth of the child, in a single block.

If the child is hospitalised in a specialist unit immediately after birth, the father is entitled to take paternity leave for the entire period of hospitalisation, up to a maximum of 30 days. This leave is considered a prolongation of the four-day compulsory period of paternity leave, and does not affect the employee's remaining entitlement of 21 days' paternity leave (28 days in the case of multiple births). In these circumstances, the employee is not required to give the employer advance notice, but must inform the employer as soon as possible, providing proof of the child's hospitalisation.

During paternity leave, employees are entitled to statutory paternity benefit, paid by the social security system. The benefit is calculated as for statutory maternity benefit (see Maternity and pregnancy rights). The employer is not obliged by law to pay employees during paternity leave, but collective agreements may provide for the statutory benefit to be topped up by the employer.

In addition to fathers, the above paternity leave rights apply to employees who are the spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner of the child's mother.

In the ten weeks after the birth of their child, male employees must not be dismissed except on grounds of gross misconduct (see France: Termination of employment > Dismissal on grounds related to the employee's person) or if it is impossible to continue the employment relationship for some other reason unrelated to the child's birth.

Carer's leave

Employees are entitled to up to three days' unpaid leave per year to look after a sick child under the age of 16. This rises to five days in the case of children under the age of one year, or if the employee is responsible for three or more children under the age of 16. Collective agreements may provide for longer care leave.

The parents of a child under the age of 20 with a serious disability or illness, or having suffered a serious accident, requiring a high level of parental care, are entitled to "parental presence leave", whereby they can take time off as required to provide care. The duration of the period during which this leave may be taken is prescribed by the doctor responsible for the child's care, and the maximum leave entitlement is 310 days over a three-year period. With the employer's agreement, the employee may take the leave on a part-time basis. An employee planning to start taking parental presence leave must give the employer at least 14 days' notice before the beginning of the period within which the leave may be taken. The employee must generally then inform the employer at least 48 hours before taking any leave, but this requirement is waived where the child's health deteriorates rapidly or there is a crisis situation. If, after the initial period of leave, the child concerned undergoes a relapse or repetition of the health problem, the parent is entitled to a renewed period of leave. Employers are not obliged to pay employees on parental presence leave, but they are entitled to a state benefit.

Other leave

Employees are entitled to paid leave for the following family events,

  • their marriage, remarriage or civil partnership ceremony (such partnerships are open to both same- and opposite-sex couples);
  • their child's marriage or remarriage;
  • the birth or adoption of a child in their household;
  • the death of their child, spouse, civil partner, cohabitant, parent, parent-in-law or sibling; and
  • on learning that their child has a disability.

The duration of the leave granted for the above family events should be stipulated in a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, in a sector-level collective agreement (see France: Industrial relations > Collective bargaining). Where there is no collective agreement dealing with these matters, the employee is entitled to the following minimum periods of leave:

  • seven days for the death of their child, if the child was under the age of 25 or was older and the parent of a child, or the death of another person under the age of 25 who was in the employee's permanent care;
  • five days for the death of their child, other than the cases listed in the point above;
  • four days for their marriage, remarriage or civil partnership ceremony;
  • three days for the birth or adoption of a child in their household, and for the death of their spouse, civil partner, cohabitant, parent, parent-in-law or sibling;
  • two days on learning that their child has a disability; and
  • one day for their child's marriage or remarriage.

In addition to the above, employees are entitled to eight days of specific "mourning leave" in the event of the death (on or after 1 July 2020) of their child, or other person in their permanent care, under the age of 25. The leave must be taken in the year following the death and may be taken in a single block or in several shorter periods. During the leave, the employee is entitled to receive their full pay, with the social security system reimbursing half of the cost. An employer must not dismiss an employee in the 13 weeks after the death of their child, or other person in their permanent care, under the age of 25, except on grounds of gross misconduct or where it is impossible to maintain the employment relationship for reasons unrelated to the death concerned.

Employees are entitled to unpaid "family solidarity leave" in the event that a close relative, spouse or civil partner is suffering from a life-threatening illness, or is in the advanced or terminal stage of a serious and incurable illness. The leave may be taken in a single block or, with the employer's agreement, in several periods. Further, with the employer's agreement, the employee may take the leave on a part-time basis. The duration of the leave and the number of times that the leave can be renewed should be stipulated in a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, in a sector-level collective agreement. Where there is no collective agreement dealing with the matter, the maximum period of leave is three months, renewable once. If the relative or spouse/civil partner dies while the employee is on leave, the leave ends three days later. The employee should give at least two weeks' notice of their intention to take leave, unless the urgency of the situation precludes this.

Employees with at least one year's service with their employer are entitled to take unpaid "close carer leave" to care for a person who is very seriously disabled. This person may be a relative, spouse, civil partner or cohabitant, or an elderly or disabled person with whom the employee lives or has a close relationship. An employee cannot take more than one year of close carer leave in total during their entire career. Various matters relating to close carer leave, including the maximum duration of the leave, should be stipulated in a company- or establishment-level collective-agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, in a sector-level collective agreement. Where there is no collective agreement dealing with these issues, the maximum duration of close carer leave is three months at a time (renewable for a maximum period of one year). The three months' leave may be taken in a single block or, with the employer's agreement, in several periods. Further, with the employer's agreement, the employee may take the leave on a part-time basis. During close carer leave, employees may be eligible for a flat-rate social security benefit for a maximum of 66 days (this benefit was introduced from 1 October 2020).

Employees with a certain minimum period of service with their employer and at least six years of work experience (with any employers) are entitled at certain intervals, to take unpaid sabbatical leave, without having to specify a reason for the leave. Various matters relating to sabbatical leave should be stipulated in a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, in a sector-level collective agreement. These matters include the minimum and maximum duration of the leave, the period of service required for eligibility, the minimum interval between sabbaticals and the notice that the employee must give of their intention to take a sabbatical. Where there is no collective agreement dealing with these issues, the following rules apply:

  • the minimum duration of a sabbatical is six months and the maximum is 11 months;
  • employees require at least 36 months' service with their employer to be eligible for a sabbatical;
  • there must be an interval of at least six years between sabbaticals; and
  • employees wishing to take a sabbatical must give their employer at least three months' notice.

An employer cannot generally refuse to grant a sabbatical. However, in the case of companies with fewer than 300 employees, the employer may, after consulting employee representatives, refuse on the grounds that the leave would prejudice the company's operation. All employers may defer an employee's planned sabbatical on certain grounds, for example, if too many employees want to take such leave simultaneously. The maximum period of deferral is six months if the employer has 300 or more employees, and nine months if the employer has fewer than 300 employees.

Employees who have at least 24 months' service with an employer that has at least 300 employees are entitled to request a period of "secured voluntary mobility", whereby their employment contract is suspended without pay and they go to work for another employer. If the employer refuses two successive requests, the employee is entitled to take such a period. After the mobility period, the employee is entitled to return to their original position, or a similar one. The employee and the original employer must reach an agreement (in the form of a supplement to the employment contract) on:

  • the purpose of the mobility period (such as learning new skills or changing career);
  • the length of the mobility period;
  • the notice that the employee must give if they decide to resign and not return to their original job; and
  • the arrangements for a possible early return - with the employer's agreement - of the employee to their original job.

Employees are entitled to leave, generally of up to 12 days per year, to attend economic, social and trade union training courses run by unions or approved institutions. In companies with 10 or more employees, the leave is partially paid.

Unpaid leave or time off is also available in certain circumstances for reasons such as:

  • setting up a new business;
  • campaigning for election to the French or European parliaments and various local councils;
  • undertaking reserve military service;
  • participating in overseas humanitarian work;
  • helping victims of natural disasters;
  • undergoing training in youth work; and
  • undergoing a citizenship ceremony.

Part-time workers

A part-time employee is defined as one who works less than full-time hours, on a weekly, monthly or annual basis. Unless a collective agreement sets lower normal full-time hours, statute defines them as 35 hours per week, 151.67 hours per month or 1,607 hours per year.

Part-time hours may be organised on a weekly, monthly or annual basis, varying within these periods, but weekly hours may never reach the statutory normal week of 35 hours (or the relevant collectively agreed normal week, if this is lower).

Part-time employees must benefit from the same rights and advantages as full-time employees, as laid down in law and collective agreements, on a pro rata or adapted basis where necessary.

Part-time employment contracts must be in writing and must specify the weekly or monthly duration and distribution of working hours. They must also state:

  • the conditions under which this distribution may be modified by the employer, which requires at least seven days' notice (this notice period may be reduced to as little as three days by a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement); and
  • whether or not additional hours may be required (and how many).

The contractual working time of part-time employees must, in general, be set at a minimum of 24 hours a week, or the equivalent calculated on a monthly basis, or on the basis of a longer period, of up to one year, set by a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement. However, a part-time employee may have a contractual working week of less than 24 hours if:

  • they request it in writing, and if the reason for the request is to enable the employee to deal with work-life constraints or to combine several part-time jobs;
  • this is permitted by a sector-level collective agreement - such agreements must provide certain guarantees for the employees concerned;
  • they are employed on a short-term contract for no more than seven days;
  • they are employed on a fixed-term or temporary contract in order to replace a temporarily absent employee; or
  • they are a student under the age of 26.

With regard to additional working hours on top of the weekly or monthly hours laid down in the part-time contract, the normal rules are as follows:

  • Additional hours may be worked only if stipulated in the employment contract, and the employer may not require the employee to work beyond the limits for additional hours stated in the contract. If the contract provides for the employee to work additional hours, the employee is obliged to work such hours, provided that the employer gives them at least three days' notice.
  • The employee's total weekly working time, including additional hours, may not reach the statutory normal week of 35 hours (or the relevant collectively agreed normal week, if this is lower). Further, the number of additional hours may not exceed 10% of the weekly or monthly hours laid down in the employment contract, although this upper limit may be increased to as much as one-third of contractual hours on the basis of a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, an extended sector-level collective agreement.
  • Part-time employees are entitled to a pay premium for all hours worked in excess of the weekly or monthly hours laid down in their contract. Additional hours of up to 10% above contractual hours attract a premium of at least 10%. If a company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such agreement, an extended sector-level collective agreement allows hours to be worked beyond this 10% limit, a minimum premium of 25% must be paid for these hours, unless an extended sector-level collective agreement provides for a lower premium, which must be at least 10%.
  • If the actual working hours of a part-time employee exceed their contractual working hours by at least two hours a week, or the equivalent, over a period of 12 consecutive weeks, or in 12 weeks during a period of 15 consecutive weeks, then the employee's actual working hours over this period are deemed to become their contractual hours on a permanent basis, unless the employee does not want this to occur. Thus, for example, if an employee whose employment contract stipulates 20 hours of work a week actually works 22 hours a week over 12 consecutive weeks, their employment contract is automatically amended to stipulate 22 hours of work a week henceforth, unless the employee refuses such a change.

In addition, statute provides for a scheme whereby part-time employees may work in excess of their contractual hours, even if this is not stated in the initial employment contract, and the above rules do not apply. This scheme, known as an "hours supplement", may be used only where the employer is covered by an extended sector-level collective agreement permitting it.

The "hours supplement" scheme involves the employer and employee agreeing to increase temporarily the employee's working hours, through an adjustment to the employment contract. There are no statutory limits on the number of additional hours that may be worked, or the length of the temporary period during which additional hours may be worked - these matters are left to agreement between the employer and employee, or to the terms of the relevant sector-level collective agreement. No more than eight such agreements on a temporary increase in hours may generally be reached per year. Additional hours worked under the "hours supplement" scheme do not attract a statutory pay premium (unlike additional hours worked by part-timers in other circumstances), although the relevant sector-level collective agreement may provide for such a premium. However, if the employee works any hours in addition to those stipulated in the hours supplement agreement, they are entitled to a pay premium of at least 25%.

With regard to split shifts, the daily working hours of a part-time employee must not be interrupted more than once, and this interruption must not exceed two hours. A company- or establishment-level collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, a sector-level collective agreement, may provide for exemptions from these rules, under certain conditions.

Employers cannot force a full-time employee to switch to part-time work if the employee does not agree. However, if the financial situation of the company is such as to justify a reduction in the working hours of one or more employees, and they refuse to move to part-time work, they may legitimately be made redundant. Employers are, in some circumstances, obliged to offer part-time work to full-time employees who have been ill or have become disabled.

Part-time employees who wish to move to full-time work must be given priority when the employer is filling relevant full-time positions, and informed about all such vacancies. The same applies to full-time employees who wish to move to part-time work.

Full-time employees are entitled to request a reduction in their working hours for reasons related to their personal life. This reduction takes the form of part-time work organised on an annual basis, with the employee working normal full-time hours in some weeks and not working at all in other weeks. Employers may reject such requests only for objective reasons related to the operation of the business. Where the employer and employee agree on such a reduction in working hours, the employment contract must be adjusted accordingly.

Employee representatives (see France: Industrial relations > Informing and consulting employees - general) must be informed annually by the employer about the level and details of part-time working in the company.

Fixed-term workers

An employee with a fixed-term employment contract has the same rights as a comparable employee with an open-ended contract in relation to conditions of employment, except where differences in treatment can be justified on objective grounds. The remuneration of a fixed-term employee must not be less than that of an employee with an open-ended contract in the same company, who has equivalent qualifications and performs the same functions.

Employment on fixed-term contracts is permitted only under certain circumstances, and such contracts may not be used to fill, on a sustained basis, jobs that are linked to the company's normal, permanent activity. The main circumstances in which fixed-term contracts may be used are as follows:

  • to replace an employee who is absent, or whose contract is suspended (eg due to maternity or parental leave) or who has switched temporarily to part-time work - such contracts may usually be used to employ someone to replace a single employee only but for a trial period from 1 January 2020 to 1 January 2023 in certain sectors (including healthcare, cleaning, catering, road transport, food retail and personal services) an employee may be employed on a fixed-term contract to replace two or more employees who are absent, suspended, etc, either simultaneously or at different times;
  • to meet variations in the company's activity, such as a temporary increase in workload, or to perform urgent safety work or occasional tasks not related to the company's main business;
  • to perform work that is inherently temporary in nature, such as seasonal work in agriculture or tourism, or employment that is traditionally performed on a temporary basis, as in some areas of the arts or sport;
  • to carry out specific projects aimed at achieving a fixed objective (a special form of fixed-term contract applies in these cases); and
  • to recruit specific groups, such as older workers, under public employment-promotion schemes.

Fixed-term contracts are specifically forbidden in some cases, such as to perform particularly dangerous work or to replace workers on strike. Further, if employers have made employees redundant in the past six months, they may generally not recruit employees on fixed-term contracts to perform the same work as the redundant workers, on the grounds of a temporary increase in workload.

Fixed-term employment contracts may or may not have a precise duration, depending on the circumstances. Where they do, and if an extended sector-level collective agreement does not provide for a maximum duration or a specific number of renewals, the maximum permitted duration is generally 18 months, including up to two renewals. The maximum duration is only nine months in certain cases, such as where the reason for the contract is carrying out emergency safety work. The maximum duration is 24 months in cases such as employment to meet an exceptional export order. Special contracts to carry out projects aimed at achieving a fixed objective may last up to 36 months, but must have a minimum duration of 18 months. Only fixed-term contracts with a precise duration may be renewed, and then no more than twice, within the permitted maximum terms.

Where a fixed-term employment contract does not specify the exact duration, it must specify a minimum duration. Such contracts may be used in cases such as the replacement of an employee who is absent or whose contract is suspended, or for seasonal work or work that is traditionally temporary. Such contracts, which may not be renewed, end when the employee being replaced returns to work or the task in question is completed.

When a fixed-term contract ends, the employer may not conclude a new fixed-term contract to fill the same position until a certain amount of time has passed. This is: one-third of the duration of the initial contract if the contract lasted 14 days or more; or half of the duration of the initial contract if the contract lasted fewer than 14 days. This rule does not apply in some cases, such as seasonal work or work that is traditionally temporary, or if an employee who was replaced by a fixed-term worker is again absent.

A breach of the above rules by the employer will in most cases result in the fixed-term contract being deemed to be an open-ended contract. The conclusion of successive fixed-term contracts with the same employee (following any permitted renewals) means that the new contract is automatically deemed an open-ended contract, except where the reason for the contract is the replacement of an absent employee, or to carry out seasonal work or work that is traditionally temporary.

When a fixed-term contract ends, employees are entitled to an "end-of-contract bonus" if the employer does not offer to renew the contract or to give the employee an open-ended contract. The bonus is also payable if the employer terminates the contract before the end of its term, unless the termination is due to serious misconduct by the employee or force majeure. It is not payable if the employee resigns before the end of the contract's term as a result of having found a job with an open-ended contract in another company. Further, the bonus does not apply to certain types of fixed-term contract, notably for seasonal work or work that is traditionally temporary. The bonus amounts to 10% of the gross pay due to the employee during the term of the contract. Collective agreements may increase the amount of the bonus or, if they provide for special training measures for fixed-term workers, reduce the amount to 6%.

Fixed-term contracts may be terminated before the expiry of their term (or the expiry of their minimum duration or completion of the task/project concerned, where relevant) only:

  • by mutual agreement;
  • because of serious misconduct by the employee (in which case the employer must follow normal dismissal procedures - see France: Termination of employment > Dismissal on grounds related to the employee's person) or employer;
  • because the employee has been medically certified as incapable of doing the job, and it is not possible to redeploy the employee to another job in the company;
  • because of force majeure - ie an external, unforeseeable event that makes it impossible to execute the contract; or
  • if the employee resigns because they have found a job with an open-ended contract.

If an employer terminates a fixed-term contract prematurely without proper justification, the employee is entitled to damages at least equal to the unpaid wages for the remaining period of the contract, as well as to an end-of-contract bonus.

If fixed-term contracts are to include a probationary period, this must be specified in the contract. The probationary period may not exceed one day per week of the contract's duration, up to a maximum of: two weeks for contracts lasting six months or less; or one month for contracts lasting more than six months.

Fixed-term employment contracts must be in writing and must specify the reason for which they have been concluded.

Posted workers

Workers posted to work in France from other countries are covered by French employment legislation in the same way as employees who have a French employment contract. This applies notably to legislation on:

  • individual and collective rights with regard to the employment relationship;
  • discrimination and equal treatment;
  • maternity protection and leave, paternity leave and leave for family events;
  • rules of temporary agency work;
  • exercising the right to strike;
  • working time, rest breaks/periods, public holiday and paid holidays;
  • the minimum wage, payment of wages and overtime premia;
  • health and safety at work and the employment of minors; and
  • illegal work.

Posted workers are also covered by the provisions of French collective agreements in the same way as the employees of France-based companies in the same sector of activity.

A service provider based outside France that temporarily posts workers to France must, before the work starts, make a declaration to the public employment authorities in the region where the work will be carried out. This prior declaration must be made through the Ministry of Labour's online "Sipsi" service. The information that must be provided in the declaration includes:

  • details of the service provider;
  • details of the French client to whom the services will be provided;
  • the nature of the services to be provided;
  • the place where the work will be performed;
  • the start and anticipated end date of the work;
  • the identities of the workers concerned, including details of matters such as their nationalities and qualifications;
  • the working time and rest arrangements for the workers;
  • the arrangements relating to the workers' travel, accommodation and subsistence expenses; and
  • the identity and contact details of the service provider's representative in France (see below).

A special notification scheme replaces the declaration procedure in respect of the posting of mobile workers in the transport sector.

A service provider that posts workers to France must identify a representative in France who is responsible for liaising as necessary with the French Labour Inspectorate, police and tax authorities, and providing various documents to the Inspectorate when requested. The documents that the Inspectorate is entitled to demand include: employment contracts; payslips; timesheets; the authorisation to work in France of non-EEA posted workers, if the service provider is based outside the EEA; and proof of the service provider's compliance with social security rules. The documents must be kept at the posted workers' workplace or be accessible to the service provider's representative.

Transfers of undertakings

When an independent economic entity is transferred to a new employer and maintains its identity after the transfer, the employment contracts of employees are transferred to the new employer. This applies, for example, to sales, mergers, takeovers and contracting-out or contracting-in situations. The new employer is obliged to observe all the rights and obligations arising from the employment contract. Employees may not be dismissed solely by reason of the transfer.

If the new employer is not covered by the same collective agreement as previously applied to the old employer, it must continue to apply the terms of this agreement to the transferred employees until another agreement replaces it, or for at least 15 months. The new employer must negotiate with trade unions representing the transferred employees over a new agreement or the adaptation of an existing agreement to cover the employees.

Further, both the old and new employer can negotiate prior to the transfer:

  • a temporary transition agreement applicable to the transferred employees and negotiated with the trade unions representing them only; or
  • a new agreement applicable to all the employees and negotiated with the trade unions representing both the transferred employees and the non-transferred employees.

If no such accord can be reached, the application of the previous agreement ceases 15 months after the transfer, although employees maintain their level of remuneration. If the new employer is covered by a collective agreement, its terms apply to the transferred employees if they are more favourable than those of the agreement that already covers these employees.

Insolvency of employer

In the event of an employer's insolvency, employees' claims for unpaid wages and related payments have priority over other creditors. Further, all employers are obliged to participate in a state "pay guarantee insurance" (Assurance en garantie des salaries, AGS) scheme to cover their employees' claims in the event of insolvency, where the company itself has insufficient funds. The AGS guarantees payments due to employees in respect of the execution of their employment contract. These include unpaid wages, holiday pay, social security contributions, work expenses, and redundancy and severance awards. The amount guaranteed to each employee is subject to an upper limit, which varies with length of service.

Grievance and disciplinary procedures

The statutory channel for employee grievances, individual or collective, relating to the application of employment law and collective agreements, is the social and economic committee (see France: Industrial relations > Informing and consulting employees - general). However, employees are also entitled to bring grievances to the employer themselves. The social and economic committee may also bring grievances related to alleged breaches of employees' personal liberties. Employees have a general right to express to their employer, individually or collectively, their views on their work, its content, the conditions in which it is performed and its organisation.

Employers are entitled to impose sanctions on employees they believe guilty of misconduct at work (in almost all cases, employees' actions in their personal life may not be punished). These sanctions - typically ranging from a warning, through measures such as downgrading and suspension, to dismissal - should be listed in order of seriousness in the company's internal rules (all companies and establishments with at least 50 employees must draw up such rules) and only the sanctions listed may be used. Fines and other monetary sanctions are (with a few exceptions, such as the pay effects of downgrading) forbidden, as are discriminatory sanctions. The same misconduct may not be punished twice.

Misconduct (faute) is not defined in law, but in general relates to breaches of the employment contract, internal rules, safety regulations and so on. Certain behaviour or actions by employees cannot be considered misconduct, such as: legitimately exercising the right to strike or perform union activities; suffering, refusing to suffer or reporting sexual harassment; or disobeying instructions that breach their basic rights.

Disciplinary action must, in principle, begin within two months of the employer becoming aware of the misconduct concerned. Where the sanction to be applied is minor - ie does not affect the employee's presence at work, job, career or remuneration - such as a warning, the employer should inform the employee in writing of the alleged wrongdoing and the sanction.

If the sanction is a serious one - disciplinary suspension, downgrading, dismissal or generally a punishment that affects the employee's presence at work, job, career or remuneration - a specific procedure must be followed. The employer must invite the employee to a meeting by letter, specifying: the time, place and date; the purpose of the meeting, although not necessarily the sanction envisaged, unless this is dismissal; and that the employee is entitled to be accompanied by another employee of their choice. There must be an "adequate" delay between the letter and the meeting (at least five working days in dismissal cases). At the meeting, the employer must present the reasons for the envisaged sanction and listen to any explanations provided by the employee. If the employer decides to proceed with the sanction it must inform the employee in writing of the punishment and the reasons. There must be a delay of at least one day (two working days in the case of dismissal), but not more than one month, between the meeting and the letter of notification.

Collective agreements or the employer's internal rules may lay down different disciplinary procedures, although the statutory minimum provisions must be observed.

Employees may contest disciplinary sanctions in an industrial tribunal (conseil de prud'hommes) on the grounds that they are unjustified or disproportionate, or that the correct procedure has not been followed. The tribunal may overturn sanctions (except dismissal) on these grounds.

Bullying, harassment and violence

Repeated acts of bullying or "moral harassment" (harcèlement moral) are forbidden by law. Moral harassment is defined as conduct that has the purpose or effect of damaging an employee's working conditions in a way that is liable to affect their rights or dignity, damage their physical or mental health, or compromise their professional future.

Employers are obliged to take all necessary measures to prevent moral harassment. Employees engaging in such harassment are liable to disciplinary sanctions. Employers may not discriminate against or dismiss employees on the grounds that they have been subjected to, or refused to be subjected to, repeated moral harassment, or have witnessed or reported such behaviour.

Specific statutory provisions apply to "harassment and violence at work". Harassment occurs when an employee is subjected to repeated and deliberate abuse, threats or humiliations in circumstances linked to work. Violence at work occurs when an employee is subjected to aggression in circumstances linked to work. Employers must take all necessary measures to prevent:

  • repeated actions of harassment whose purpose or effect is to damage an employee's working conditions in a way that is liable to affect their rights or dignity, damage their physical or mental health, or compromise their professional future; and
  • aggression or violence in circumstances linked to work, committed either by other employees/managers or by any external person present at the workplace.

Employers must clearly state that harassment and violence at work will not be tolerated, and set out a procedure for dealing with the issue (see below), in a document to be distributed to all employees or in the employer's internal rules. Employers are obliged - in consultation with employees and/or their representatives - to take a range of measures to identify, prevent and manage harassment and violence. These include: awareness-raising and appropriate training for employees and managers; measures to improve work organisation and processes and the working environment; and the involvement of company medical services.

Employers must have in place an appropriate procedure to identify and tackle harassment and violence at work. The procedure should be underpinned, as a minimum, by the following principles:

  • it is in the interest of all parties to proceed with the necessary discretion to protect the dignity and privacy of all;
  • no information, except where anonymised, should be disclosed to parties not involved in the case;
  • complaints should be investigated and dealt with without delay;
  • all parties involved should receive an impartial hearing and fair treatment;
  • complaints must be backed up by detailed information;
  • false accusations are not tolerated and may result in disciplinary action; and
  • external assistance may be helpful.

Procedures can include an informal stage during which a person trusted by management and employees is available to give advice and assistance. A mediation process may also be used where allegations of violence or harassment are made.

Employers, in consultation with employees and/or their representatives, must establish, review and monitor procedures to ensure that they are effective both in preventing problems and dealing with issues as they arise.

Where it is established that harassment or violence has occurred, appropriate measures must be taken in relation to the perpetrator. These measures must be laid down in the company's internal rules.

Employees must not be subject to dismissal, disciplinary action or detriment (including in relation to remuneration, training or promotion) on the grounds of suffering, refusing to suffer, witnessing or reporting harassment or violence. Victims must receive support (including medical and/or psychological support where their health has been affected) and, if necessary, help with returning to work or reintegration.

When cases of harassment and violence are identified, the employer must examine the circumstances, in cooperation with employees and/or their representatives. This examination must include all elements of the work environment, including individual behaviour, management methods, relations with customers and the company's mode of operation.

Data protection

The collection and processing by employers of the personal data of employees and job applicants is governed principally by the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which has been directly applicable in France (as in the other EU member states) since 25 May 2018, and by the law of 6 January 1978 on information technology and individual freedom. Employers are required to:

  • process personal data (any information relating to an identified or identifiable individual) lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner;
  • collect personal data for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further process the data in a manner that is incompatible with these purposes;
  • collect and process only personal data that is adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes of the processing;
  • ensure that personal data is accurate and, where necessary, up to date, and take every reasonable step to ensure that inaccurate data is erased or rectified without delay;
  • keep personal data in a form that permits identification of data subjects for no longer than is necessary for the purposes of the processing; and
  • process personal data in a manner that ensures its appropriate security, including protection against unauthorised or unlawful processing, accidental loss, destruction or damage, using appropriate technical or organisational measures.

Employers must be able to demonstrate compliance with the principles set out above.

An employer can process personal data about employees or job applicants only if the individual concerned has given consent (though see below), or if the processing is necessary for at least one of the following reasons:

  • for the performance of a contract to which the employee/job applicant is party or in order to take steps at their request prior to entering into a contract;
  • for compliance with a legal obligation to which the employer is subject;
  • to protect the vital interests of the employee/job applicant or of another person;
  • for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or the exercise of official authority; or
  • for the purposes of the legitimate interests of the employer or a third party, except where these interests are overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the employee/job applicant.

Where processing is based on consent, the employer must be able to demonstrate that the employee or job applicant has consented to this processing. Consent must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous, and expressed by a statement or by a clear affirmative action. If consent is given in the context of a written declaration that also concerns other matters (for example, in an employment contract), the request for consent must be presented in a manner that is clearly distinguishable from the other matters, and in an intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language. The employee or job applicant has a right to withdraw consent at any time, and must be informed of this right before giving consent.

For consent to be freely given, the individual must have a free choice and be able to refuse or withdraw consent without being disadvantaged. Consent is not freely given if there is a clear imbalance in the relationship between the individual and the processing organisation. There is likely to be such an imbalance in the employment relationship, making it difficult for employers to rely on consent. Consent is likely to be valid in the employment context only if the employee or job applicant has a genuine choice and will not be disadvantaged if they decline to give consent.

The processing of "special categories" of personal data is subject to particular rules. This relates to:

  • data that reveals racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, or trade union membership;
  • genetic data;
  • biometric data used for the purpose of uniquely identifying a person;
  • data concerning health; and
  • data relating to a person's sex life or sexual orientation.

The processing of these special categories of data is prohibited except in specified cases, notably the following:

  • the employee/job applicant has given explicit consent to the processing for one or more specified purposes (except in cases where giving such consent is prohibited by law);
  • processing is necessary to enable the employer or the employee/job applicant to carry out obligations and exercise specific rights in the field of employment, social security and social protection law, and the processing is authorised by law or a collective agreement;
  • processing relates to personal data that has manifestly been made public by the employee/job applicant;
  • processing is necessary for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims; or
  • processing is necessary for the purposes of preventive or occupational medicine, the assessment of an employee's working capacity, medical diagnosis, the provision of health or social care or treatment, or the management of health or social care systems and services, on the basis of law or pursuant to a contract with a health professional.

The processing of personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences is permitted only when authorised by law. An employer may ask a job applicant or an employee to produce an extract of their criminal record during an interview but is not allowed to retain a copy. The employer is however allowed to record whether or not the criminal record was checked.

When collecting personal data from an employee or job applicant, the employer must provide them with certain specified information, including:

  • the purposes for which the data will be processed;
  • the legal basis for the processing;
  • the recipients of the data;
  • the transfer of data outside the European Economic Area;
  • the retention period;
  • the individual's rights (for example, in relation to access and consent);
  • whether or not the provision of data is a statutory or contractual requirement; and
  • the possible consequences of failure to provide the data.

Where personal data was not obtained directly from the employee or job applicant, the employer must also provide them with certain specified information, including the source and the categories of personal data to be processed.

Employees and job applicants are entitled to obtain from the employer confirmation as to whether or not their personal data is being processed. Where this is the case, they are entitled to have access to the data and be given specified information, covering broadly the same issues as the information provided when the data was collected. The employer must provide a copy of the personal data concerned, free of charge (it may charge a reasonable fee for any further copies requested).

In respect of their personal data held by employers, employees and job applicants have rights to:

  • have inaccurate data rectified;
  • have data erased on certain grounds;
  • have the processing of data restricted in certain circumstances;
  • in some cases, object to the processing of data on grounds relating to their particular situation;
  • obtain and reuse certain data for their own purposes across different organisations (as separate data controllers);
  • withdraw their consent at any time; and
  • lodge a complaint before a supervisory authority.

Where an employee or job applicant requests access to their personal data, or requests the exercise of any of the rights listed above, the employer must provide information on the action taken in response to the request without undue delay and in any event within one month of receipt of the request. This period may be extended by two further months if necessary because of the complexity and number of the requests.

Employees and job applicants have a right not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing (including "profiling") that produces legal effects concerning the employee or job applicant or similarly significantly affects them. This right does not apply if the decision is necessary for a contract between the employee or job applicant and the employer; is authorised by law; or is based on the employee or job applicant's explicit consent.

An employer must appoint a data protection officer if it is a public body or its core activities consist of: large-scale data processing that requires regular and systematic monitoring of individuals; or large-scale processing of special categories of data (see above) or personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences. The officer's role is to inform and advise the employer and its employees of their obligations under data protection law, advise on data protection impact assessments, cooperate and liaise with the supervisory authority (see below) and monitor the organisation's compliance.

Employers must implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to:

  • ensure and be able to demonstrate that personal data processing is being performed in accordance with the GDPR - where proportionate in relation to processing activities, these measures must include the implementation of appropriate data protection policies;
  • implement data protection principles effectively and integrate the necessary safeguards into data processing in order to meet the requirements of the GDPR and protect the rights of employees and job applicants;
  • ensure that, by default, only personal data that is necessary for each specific purpose of the processing is processed - this applies to the amount of personal data collected, the extent of processing, the period of storage and the data's accessibility; and
  • ensure an appropriate level of security of processing.

Employers must also observe rules in areas such as:

  • preventing and, where necessary, notifying data breaches;
  • maintaining records of processing activities;
  • conducting a prior data protection impact assessment where data processing is likely to result in a high risk to individuals' rights and freedoms, for example in the case of large-scale processing of special categories of personal data; and
  • transferring data outside the EEA.

The national authority responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with data protection law is the National Commission for Data Protection and Liberties (Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés, CNIL). The Commission deals with complaints from employees and job applicants. It is empowered to carry out inquiries, audits and investigations, and to order employers to take various actions to comply with the law. The Commission can also impose administrative fines on employers that do not comply with the law, while certain breaches also constitute criminal offences.

Employees must be informed in advance of any surveillance or monitoring measures applied to them (for example CCTV, internet or email monitoring), and the social and economic committee (see France: Industrial relations > Informing and consulting employees - general) must also be informed and consulted. Any such measures must be justified by the nature of the task to be accomplished and proportional to the intended goal.

Telework

Telework is defined by statute as a form of work organisation whereby an employee performs on a voluntary basis, using information and communication technologies, work outside the employer's premises that could otherwise be performed on the employer's premises. A teleworker is defined as an employee who performs telework, either from the time of recruitment or subsequently during employment. (See Coronavirus - emergency measures for temporary measures introduced in response to the coronavirus outbreak).

The use of telework may be based on the provisions of an applicable collective agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, the provisions of a "charter" drawn up by the employer following consultation with employee representatives (where these are present) (see France: Industrial relations > Informing and consulting employees - general). The agreement or charter must deal with specified matters, including:

  • the conditions under which employees may telework and the conditions under which they may switch back to a non-teleworking position with the employer;
  • the procedure that the employee has to follow to perform telework;
  • the methods by which teleworkers' working time or workload will be monitored by the employer; and
  • the times when teleworkers may normally be contacted by the employer.

However, in the absence of a collective agreement or charter on the subject, an individual employer and employee can still agree that the employee will perform telework, on a regular or occasional basis, and formalise their agreement by any means (for example, by an amendment to the employment contract or simply by email). In practice, when telework is performed on a regular basis, the employer and employee will formalise their agreement under the employment contract or an amendment to it.

The provision allowing for telework to be based on a collective agreement or charter has applied since 24 September 2017. Prior to this, employees could perform telework only if this was stipulated in their employment contract (or an amendment to it). From 24 September 2017, where such existing teleworkers fall under a collective agreement or charter on telework, any provisions in their employment contract that are contrary to, or incompatible with, the collective agreement or charter are automatically replaced by the relevant provisions of the agreement or charter, unless the employee explicitly refuses to let this happen within one month of the execution of the agreement or charter.

Teleworkers have the same rights as employees working on the employer's premises, including in terms of access to training, access to communications from trade unions and participation in workplace elections. In addition, the employer is obliged to:

  • where the teleworker is performing telework at the employer's request, compensate the teleworker for professional use of their home (the applicable sum must be specified in the employment contract and can be paid as part of the employee's monthly salary);
  • inform the teleworker of any restrictions on the use of the computer and communications equipment and services provided, and the penalties for breach of these restrictions;
  • inform the teleworker of, and give the teleworker priority for, any vacancies arising for non-teleworking positions that match his or her qualifications and skills (see France: Recruitment and selection > Priority for employment); and
  • hold an annual meeting with the teleworker to discuss the worker's activity and workload.

If an employee has a job that is eligible for telework, under the terms of the relevant collective agreement or charter, and the employer refuses the employee's request to telework, it must give reasons for this refusal.

A refusal by an employee to perform telework is not a valid reason for termination of the employment contract by the employer (see France: Termination of employment > General).

Any accident that a teleworker suffers at the place where they perform telework while they are performing such work is presumed to be an occupational accident (see France: Health and safety > Compensation for injury or illness).

Right to disconnect

From 1 January 2017, employees have, in principle, a statutory "right to disconnect". This right is not precisely defined in the relevant legislation, but implies an entitlement for employees to cease contact with work through computer-based technology outside working hours, for example by not reading or responding to work-related emails, or by switching off work smartphones. The means of implementing this right are largely left to negotiation and consultation at the level of individual employers, rather than being stipulated by statute.

In companies where at least one representative trade union has a union section and a union delegate (this is possible only in companies with 50 or more employees) (see France: Industrial relations > Trade unions) the employer must conduct regular collective bargaining (though not necessarily reach a collective agreement) on equality between women and men and the "quality of life" at work (see France: Industrial relations > Collective bargaining). Unless otherwise agreed, the themes covered in the negotiations must include the ways in which employees can exercise their right to disconnect and the implementation by the employer of measures to regulate the use of computer-based technology, with the aim of ensuring the respect of employees' rest and leave periods and their personal and family life.

In companies with 50 or more employees, if no collective agreement is reached on the right to disconnect, the employer must draw up a "charter", after consulting employee representatives. This charter must set out the ways in which employees can exercise their right to disconnect, and provide for training and awareness-raising measures for employees and managers on the "reasonable" use of computer-based technology.

Sources/references

The main provisions of the Labour Code relating to the issues covered in this section are:

  • hours of work - Part III, Book I, Title II;
  • rest breaks/periods and Sunday work - Part III, Book I, Title III;
  • holidays and holiday pay - Part III, Book I, Titles III and IV;
  • maternity and pregnancy rights, parental leave and carer's leave - Part I, Book II, Title II;
  • other leave - Part III, Book I, Title IV and Part I, Book II, Title II;
  • part-time workers - Part III, Book I, Title II;
  • fixed-term workers - Part I, Book II, Title IV;
  • posted workers - Part I, Book II, Title VI;
  • transfers of undertakings - Part I, Book II, Title II;
  • insolvency of employer - Part III, Book II, Title V;
  • grievance and disciplinary procedures - Part I, Book I, Title II; Part I, Book III, Title III; Part II, Book II, Title VIII; and Part II, Book III, Title I;
  • bullying, harassment and violence - Part I, Book I, Title V and the decree of 23 July 2010 (giving legal force to a national cross-industry collective agreement on harassment and violence at work);
  • telework - Part I, Book II, Title II; and
  • right to disconnect - Part II, Book II, Title IV.

Matters such as maternity, paternity and adoption benefits are governed by the Social Security Code. The main item of legislation relating to data protection is the EU General Data Protection Regulation (2016/679 EU) and the law of 6 January 1978, as amended by the law of 6 August 2004.