Here, we’ll dig into five labor laws in France that you need to know to remain compliant.
France’s 35-hour work week isn’t so simple
France uses a 35-hour work week. However, many roles will spend more time working than that. What’s critical for your business to know is what the regulations are beyond 35 hours a week.
Beyond 35 hours, employees are entitled to overtime pay. The specific rate of overtime pay typically depends on the applicable collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). Overtime rates will be at least 110% of the worker’s hourly rate. If no CBA applies to the worker, they’ll be entitled to:
- 125% of their hourly rate for hours 36-43 in a week.
- 150% of their hourly wage for hours 44-48 in a week.
What’s the maximum working hours for a week in France?
In France, 48 hours per week is the absolute maximum an employee may work in a single week. However, businesses can’t expect their teams to work 48-hour weeks regularly. Employees can only work an average of 44 hours per week over a 12-week period.
Work hours, rest periods, and breaks go hand-in-hand
Complying with rest periods in France is just as important as complying with working hours. Employees must have at least 11 hours between shifts each day. In addition, workers are entitled to a full day without work each week. Including the required 11 hours between shifts, this adds up to 35 hours of rest, typically taken on the weekend. However, there may be exceptions for workers in the hospitality, tourism, and entertainment industries.
During the workday, French workers are entitled to a minimum of 20 continuous minutes of rest every six hours. Keep in mind that a long lunch—around an hour—is common in France. If you’re building a global team, embracing your team’s local culture and allowing for a longer lunch can demonstrate your cultural awareness and respect for their way of life.
Don’t neglect night work regulations
French laws regarding working hours extend beyond the amount of time worked. They also regulate when employees work. Work done between 9 P.M. and 6 A.M. can’t exceed eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. Employees may be considered night workers if they:
- Work at least 3 hours a night on two or more occasions each week.
- If they work 270 hours or more at night each year.
Asynchronous remote work is more than achievable for global businesses, but real-time virtual meetings can still be necessary at some times. If you’re thinking about hiring in France, be aware that scheduling meetings at certain times could potentially lead to your employee being classified as a night worker.
French employees have the right to log off
Our modern conception of remote work has largely been shaped by businesses adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the truth is that many have been working remotely—at least some of the time—much longer. Reviewing a proposal after you get home, taking a phone call just before dinner, and checking your email first thing in the morning have all been commonplace long before fully-remote work was mainstream.
When work creeps into our lives, it eventually becomes a form of wage theft, and ultimately damages workers’ mental health. France was the first European country to formally address this issue facing modern workers. Since 2017, French employers have been obligated to negotiate with unions to form ‘Right to Disconnect’ agreements. These agreements formalize when workers are and are not expected to check or send work-related emails.
Time zone differences often make for a scenario where you’re online while your team across the world is offline. Regulations like the right to disconnect can be frustrating when you urgently need to connect. That said, understanding how such agreements can impact your business is crucial. Not only does it matter for compliance, but it also impacts the productivity and mental health of your teams.
Employers sit at the bottom of the labor hierarchy
Labor regulations and agreements for workers and employers are organized in the following hierarchy:
1. The French Labor Code (Code du Travail)
The French Labor Code is the highest-level authority on labor in France. It dictates rules for employees, employers, and contractors. Items covered by the Code du Travail include:
- The minimum wage
- Working hours
- Workplace safety
- Termination rights for employees and employers
2. Collective Bargaining Agreements (Accord de Performance Collective)
Beneath the French Labor Code sit collective bargaining agreements. They’re typically negotiated between national or industry-wide labor unions and employer’s associations. These agreements have a very broad impact. CBAs will typically apply to employers regardless of whether they’re a part of an employer’s association.
Collective bargaining agreements are often more favorable to employees than the French Labor Code. If there’s conflict between the two, employees will receive whichever is more beneficial. Likewise, CBAs automatically supersede the contents of individual employment contracts.
3. Individual Employment Contracts
The French Labor Code and CBAs are exceedingly thorough. If anything isn’t already covered, it may be negotiated on an individual basis. Keep in mind that employees are entitled to whatever is most beneficial when their individual contract conflicts with labor laws or the applicable CBA.
Contracts must be written or translated in French
France famously has a rich culture. It boasts world-renowned architecture, foods, and arts. Central to this culture is the French language, which is a national point of pride, and even extends to employment contracts. The French Labor Code requires that labor contracts must be written in French, or your business’ primary language accompanied by a French translation.
Why does it matter?
First, because employment contracts are complex. Even if a worker is fluent in another language, the technical nature of employment contracts can lead to misunderstandings. Providing contracts in French ensures they’re fully aware of what they’re agreeing to.
Secondly, failing to provide contracts in the French language could potentially put your business at risk. For example, say a contract that promises a bonus if the worker meets certain goals. That contract may be unenforceable if it's not written in French. What’s more, your worker could ultimately claim to be entitled to the bonus because they didn’t understand the non-French version of the contract.
If you’re building a global team, it’s important to be sensitive to the local culture. Taking the time to provide necessary documents to your global team in their native tongue isn’t merely a good way to protect yourself legally. It also can show that you respect their culture.
Employee monitoring must comply with GDPR
Some companies have started to monitor their remote workers’ screens or require them to be constantly at their desks. However, such activities are illegal in France and monitoring in general is heavily regulated. For example, employment contracts often give employers complete access to an employee’s company email. However, that’s not quite the case in France. Employers can’t view emails marked ‘personal’ or ‘private’ without the consent of their workers, even if stored on a company email account.
Additionally, monitoring such as tracking internet connections may be allowed, but only when such surveillance is appropriately justified by the business’ need. For instance, your business might monitor a worker’s internet connections to ensure that the company isn’t vulnerable to cybersecurity risks.
If you must monitor your global team, French workers must be informed that you’re taking those steps. They’ll also be entitled to know why you’re doing so, your legal grounds for doing so, who will have access to their data and for how long, and their rights as far as objecting or filing a complaint.