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Navigating Paid Leave in France: A Comprehensive Guide

November 23, 2023

In today's remotely-connected world, businesses are tapping into international talent pools to grow their business. If you’re considering expanding your team into France, it’s important to understand the intricacies of French labor laws and employment practices.

Known for its rich culture and emphasis on work-life balance, France places significant emphasis on paid leave as an important part of the employment relationship. In this guide, we’ll break down the French paid leave system and explore best practices for companies hiring in France.

Understanding French Paid Leave

France’s paid leave system covers various types of time off to accommodate diverse life circumstances:

1. Annual Leave


Employees in France are entitled to a minimum of 25 working days of paid leave annually. This is based on a standard 35-hour workweek, and the allowance can increase depending on factors such as the employee's age, length of service, and industry.

Accrual and Calculation

Annual leave is typically accrued over the course of the year, and the calculation is based on the number of days or hours worked. The accrual period may vary depending on the company or industry, but it commonly follows a system where employees earn leave days based on the amount of time worked.

Carrying Over Unused Leave

French labor law encourages employees to take their annual leave during the reference year. However, unused leave days can sometimes be carried over to the following year, depending on the circumstances and any applicable collective agreements.

2. Reduction of Working Time (RTT)

The Reduction of Working Time (RTT) in France is a labor policy that gives employees with more than 35 hours of work per week additional days off. The number of RTT days is determined by an agreement, usually a company agreement. These agreements help manage and distribute working hours more evenly among employees, contributing to the goals of improved work-life balance and increased employment opportunities.

3. Public Holidays

In addition to annual leave, employees in France enjoy paid time off on public holidays. Employers are obligated to grant paid leave on these days, further contributing to the overall work-life balance of employees. The country observes a variety of public holidays, including:

France Public Holiday Calendar

  • New Year’s Day - January 1
  • Easter Monday - Day after Easter Sunday
  • Labor Day - May 1
  • Victory Day - May 8
  • Ascension Day - Thursday, 39 days after Easter Sunday
  • Whit Monday - Monday after Pentecost
  • Bastille Day - July 14
  • Assumption Day - August 15
  • All Saint’s Day - November 1
  • Armistice Day - November 11
  • Christmas Day - December 25

  • New Year’s Day - January 1
  • Easter Monday - Day after Easter Sunday
  • Labor Day - May 1
  • Victory Day - May 8
  • Ascension Day - Thursday, 39 days after Easter Sunday
  • Whit Monday - Monday after Pentecost
  • Bastille Day - July 14
  • Assumption Day - August 15
  • All Saint’s Day - November 1
  • Armistice Day - November 11
  • Christmas Day - December 25

4. Special Leaves in France

Sick Leave

Employees in France are entitled to sick leave, which is paid by social security from the 4th day onwards. Employees who have worked at least 3 months with their employer can receive their salary for 90 days of sick leave.

Maternity Leave

Pregnant employees in France receive 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, 6 before the due date and the rest after the birth. If the child is the mother’s third or more, the leave is extended to 26 weeks. Employees who have worked at least 150 hours in the 90 days before their maternity leave are entitled to full pay of their average salary.

Paternity Leave

Fathers are entitled to 28 days of leave in addition to the 1 week of leave at the time of the birth. This leave also applies for same-sex couples. Employers pay the first 3 days of the leave, then social security pays the rest.

Adoption Leave

Employees are entitled to receive adoption leave depending on the number of children. The duration is typically 16 weeks for one child, or 22 weeks if adopting more than one child. Families who already have 2 children prior to the adoption will receive 18 weeks of adoption leave. If the leave is shared between both parents, the amount is extended to 25 days (single adoption) or 32 days (multiple adoption).

Carer’s Leave

Employees can take up to 3 months of carer's leave to care for a close relative (spouse, partner, sibling, parent, child, or anyone in the same household) with a serious and long-term illness or disability. While on leave, regular salary payments are not provided, but some financial support or benefits may be available based on individual circumstances. Employees must inform their employer in advance and provide necessary medical documentation.

Additional Family Leave

Employees are entitled to one day of family leave to attend their child's wedding. While the standard family leave provisions cover events like childbirth, adoption, and weddings, France recognizes that family circumstances may vary. Additional family leave may be granted based on collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) or specific company policies.

Bereavement Leave

Employees are entitled to paid bereavement leave in the following circumstances:

  • Death of a Child: 14 days of paid leave if the child is under 25 or is a parent.
  • Death of a Partner: 3 days of paid leave.
  • Death of a Close Relative: 3 days of paid leave.
  • Child Accident or Disability: 2 days of paid leave.
  • Family Solidarity: Time off to be with a loved one at the end of their life.

Business Creation Leave

In France, employees who are starting or taking over a business are allowed to take time off from their regular employment for up to 1 year. To be eligible for business creation leave, employees must have been with the same employer for at least 2 years. During this time, employees can focus on establishing and managing their new business without completely severing their ties with their current employer.

Sabbatical Leave

Employees who have worked with a company for at least 3 years and have 6 years of professional experience are eligible for unpaid sabbatical leave. The duration typically lasts from 6 to 11 months, but can vary depending on a collective or company agreement.

Best Practices for Employers Operating in France

Operating in the diverse French business landscape offers both challenges and opportunities for employers. Adopting best practices in key areas can help with successful operations and positive employer-employee relationships.

Managing Staffing and Workloads

Handling work schedules and maintaining proper staffing can be difficult during peak vacation  times. Employers can prepare by ensuring enough coverage, distributing work efficiently, and having contingency plans to address potential gaps. Additionally, cross-training employees for different roles can provide flexibility in staffing.

Compliance with Regulations

Abiding by local labor laws and regulations, especially regarding various types of leave, can be complicated. Failure to comply may lead to legal problems and financial penalties. Employers should regularly check for legal updates and adjust their policies to identify and address discrepancies or non-compliance issues.

Cultural Nuances

Cultural differences can affect communication, negotiation styles, and business etiquette. Building strong relationships is important in France, and requires an understanding of the local culture. Employers can invest in cultural training for employees, hire local staff, and adapt business practices to align with French customs.

Simplify Hiring in France

If you’re looking to expand your team in France, consider partnering with Remofirst as your Employer of Record to handle your international payroll and HR. Explore our France Country Guide for additional insights on hiring and managing employees in France.