French regulations strictly supervise employees’ working time, which may not exceed a certain limit and must include break time and minimum rest periods. Not only must the employer comply with these obligations, but in the event of litigation, the employer must be in a position to produce evidence that it has done so.
Each employee is entitled to a minimum daily rest period of 20 minutes if they work 6 hours in a row. This break time is a period during which an employee can freely deal with his personal occupations without having to comply with directives of his employer.
Employees are also entitled to a daily rest of at least 11 consecutive hours and a weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours. Consequently, the minimum rest period over the full week is 35 consecutive hours, given that in France it is generally prohibited to work on Sundays (except if otherwise provided by law). However, most of the time, the employee benefits from 2 days of rest per week.
While it is normally prohibited to work on Sundays, there are exceptions, in particular those resulting from the nature of the Company’s business. Certain exceptions are automatic: in establishments the operation or opening of which on Sunday is required due to production constraints, the kind of activity or the needs of the public, as well as in the retail food trade. Other exceptions require the conclusion of a collective bargaining agreement or an administrative authorization applied for after consultation with the work councils.
Furthermore, apprentices and workers under the age of 18 benefit from more favourable working time and rest arrangements (including a compulsory weekly rest of 2 consecutive days).
In addition, there is an annual right to rest. Each employee is entitled to a leave paid by the employer according to the statutory regime.
An employee accrues holidays at a rate of 2,5 working days per month of actual work with the same employer. An employee who has worked 12 months is thus entitled to 30 working days of holiday. The legislative and regulatory provisions that grant and organize this right are of public order, that is to say, imperative and may not be waived by the employee. It is the employer’s responsibility to take the necessary measures to enable the employee to benefit from this right; failing to do so constitutes a fault requiring the employer to compensate the employee for the loss suffered.
Finally, it is essential to check the sector-wide collective bargaining agreement applicable to the company as it may contain more favourable provisions to the employee than those provided by law, in which case such more favourable provisions are compulsory.