Under French law, all employees are granted a right to paid annual leave, which consists of a statutory minimum number of days subject to any more favourable provisions applicable under any collective bargaining agreement to which the employer (or the sector of business in which the employee is active) is party, the employer’s internal practices or any individual employment contract concluded by the employer with the relevant employee.
Employees’ entitlements to holidays
The right to annual leave is appreciated over a reference period running from 1st June of the previous year to 31th May of the current year and generally calculated in working days (every days of the week except Sundays and public holidays that are not worked). During this period, an employee accrues 2,5 working days’ paid leave per month worked (equivalent to 5 weeks holidays per year). As a consequence, an employee who has worked 12 months is entitled to a minimum of 30 days’ (or five weeks) annual leave (this is prorated for employees having worked less than 12 months over the year). This entitlement is in addition to public holidays (around 11 days per year).
The acquisition of annual leave is automatic as soon as the employee begins working and will depend on the employee’s actual working time. In this regard, certain periods during which the employment contract is suspended (such as maternity leave, absences due to occupational accident, etc.) are considered by law as effective working time.
The right to annual leave must be exercised every year and cannot therefore be carried forward to the following year except in certain specific circumstances (maternity leave, sick leave, etc.) or by agreement with the employer. Similarly, annual leave cannot be taken before they have been accrued through effective work but can be taken, after vesting in the employee, before the leave period provided the employer and employee both agree to this.
Some specific procedural requirements
The period during which annual leave can be taken by the employees is determined by the branch collective agreement applicable to the company, or in the absence thereof, by the employer, after consultation of the staff delegates and Works council if any, and must be brought to the employees’ attention at least 2 months before the beginning of the leave period. Moreover, such period must necessarily include the period running from 1st May to 31st October.
Within this period, the employer will decide the employee’s dates of annual leave which will be displayed in the company’s premises and transmitted to the employees at least one month before their departure. In the absence of contractual provisions or practices, the order of annual leaves is determined by taking into account the employees’ length of service within the company, their possible activity with one or several others employers and their family situation.
Leave can be taken in instalments
In principle, the fifth week of leave must be taken apart from the principal leave. In addition, specific rules must be followed in the event the annual leave is taken in instalments. In this regard, annual leave up to 12 working days must be taken consecutively and only leave between 12 and 24 working days can be split with the employee’s consent. In addition, unless provided otherwise in the collective agreement or expressly agreed by the employee, such 12 consecutive days must be taken during the period between 1st May and 31st October.
Some supplementary holidays
Except if the employee waives them or if provided by the collective bargaining agreement, employees who have taken at least 6 paid holidays outside of the period between 1st May and 31st October are entitled to two supplementary days or to one supplementary day if they have taken between three and five days of paid holidays out of this period.
Payment of holidays
Any employee on annual leave is entitled to be paid at a rate equal to 1/10th of his/her total remuneration paid during the annual reference period. However, this amount cannot be lower than the remuneration the employee would have received had he/she continued to work during such period. Employers must therefore determine which of the two is more favourable to the employee in order to set the employee’s indemnity.
In any case, the annual leave must actually be taken and cannot be replaced by a payment in lieu except in very specific cases and notably upon termination of the employment contract.