A Day in the Life of an HR Manager in France

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What day-to-day HR responsibilities are there for SMEs in France?  As HR consultants with clients on both sides of the Channel, we are often asked this question.

To answer it, here is an overview of the general HR monitoring, administration, and management duties that would be expected in a typical French business.

In France, the standard working week is 35 hours.

French employees cannot work for more than 48 hours in any given week, so companies must monitor the time worked by each salaried employee using any tracking system they see fit. 

Working time must average no more than 44 hours in 12 consecutive weeks (in the UK, average working time is 48 hours calculated over 17 consecutive weeks). 

There is also a requirement to ensure employees get 35 consecutive hours of uninterrupted rest per week (in the UK this is 24 hours).  The weekly rest period usually includes Sundays, when most French employees are prohibited from working.

Additionally, in France there is a legal limit of 220 overtime hours per year.  Collective agreements may alter this number, but if it exceeds 220 hours companies must give their employees compensatory rest.

What about the standard working day?

French employees cannot work for more than 10 hours a day.  As is the case in the UK, employees must get at least 11 hours’ uninterrupted rest between finishing work and starting again the next day.

French employees cannot opt out of the maximum 48-hour week.

Only senior executives are excluded from working time legislation.  However, for certain employees an arrangement known as a forfait-jour may apply.  To benefit from this arrangement, employees must:

  • have genuine autonomy in the organisation of their working hours,
  • have duties that do not require them to follow a collective timetable, and/or
  • have working hours that cannot be predetermined.

Under a forfait-jour arrangement, the employee’s working time is calculated by the number of days worked per year, instead of hours worked per week. 

Although the employer does not have to control the employee’s working hours, they must design a procedure that ensures mandatory rest periods are taken and that the employee’s workload is not excessive.

Are there different provisions for night work?

In France, night work performed between 9pm and 6am may not exceed eight hours a day and 40 hours per week.  If a night worker falls pregnant, she must be given daytime working hours for the duration of her pregnancy.

Holidays and time off in France

French employees are entitled to 30 days of annual leave, which are generally accrued at a rate of 2.5 days per month. This legal entitlement is calculated on the basis of the working week being Monday to Saturday rather than Monday to Friday. In a business working standard 5-day weeks, the holiday entitlement will be 25 days but only if this has been set up that way. Most payroll bureaus will automatically calculate the entitlement on the basis of the 30 days which often causes confusion. The holiday calendar begins on 1st June and runs to 31st May.  Unless the Convention Collective specifies otherwise, the employee is not entitled to additional days if they fall ill whilst on leave.

Another important reason for monitoring individual working time is the provision of RTT days (réduction de temps du travail) that applies when working time exceeds the standard 35-hour limit.  Employees are given days or half-days of rest if their working time exceeds 35 hours in a week ( the maximum is 39 hours).

Do French employees work on Bank Holidays?

There are 11 public holidays in France, although only 1st May (Labour Day) is a statutory paid holiday. 

While most employers will grant public holidays as paid time off, it should be noted that when a public holiday falls on a weekend, it does not move to the next working day as it does in the UK.

What other paid leave requirements exist in France?

French employees are legally entitled to paid time off for certain family and life events.  These include the birth or adoption of a child, and a wedding or civil union, as well as bereavements and to be with a loved one at the end of their life. It is also not uncommon for colleagues to donate some of their leave to someone looking after a terminally ill relative.

Monitoring sick pay in France

Benefit packages can be more difficult to design in France, since many benefits are legally mandated.  Sick pay is a good example, as remuneration is partly or fully maintained during periods of illness.

After a waiting period of three days, daily allowances (indemnités journalières) are paid to employees on sick leave, to compensate for salary payments.  Paid via a combination of Social Security, the employer, and the company’s prévoyance (life insurance) contract, the amount is determined by the Convention Collective.

Can we help shed light on your French HR obligations?

Of course, there are many other HR requirements for French SMEs to take account of, but we hope we have given a clear introduction.  If you have any questions, we would be very happy to answer them as part of a free initial consultation.

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