Working Overtime in France: A Brief Guide for Employers

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France’s legal 35-hour working week officially places it alongside those countries with the shortest legal working weeks in Europe.  However, in general French employees do not automatically stop working once they have reached their 35-hour quota!

Most employees in France will benefit from overtime, with the exception of cadres dirigeants (senior executives) and employees who work under a forfait jours arrangement (where remuneration is based on the number of days worked in a year, rather than hours in a week).

When is overtime worked in France?

Overtime is worked either by explicit request from the employer, or an implicit agreement – for example, if there is a sudden increase in work activity that employees are expected to respond to in good time.

However, overtime must not exceed a set number of hours (the contingent annuel, or annual quota).  Usually, the contingent annuel is defined by the convention collective or in a formal company agreement.  Where no such agreement exists, French labour law sets the annual figure at 220 hours.

How is overtime counted?

Overtime in France is counted per calendar week, re-setting every Monday.  Employees who work overtime must not exceed the maximum weekly working time, which is 48 hours in a single week, or 44 hours over a consecutive 12-week period.

What overtime payments must apply?

The rate of pay for overtime worked in France is largely dependent on the existence of a convention collective or formal company agreement.  These will set the official company rate of pay in place for overtime worked beyond the legal limit. 

In the absence of any such agreement, statutory rates will apply as follows:

  • 25% of the employee’s hourly wage for the first eight hours of overtime worked in the same week (from the 36th – 43rd hour),
  • 50% of the employee’s hourly wage for the 44th hour onwards.

Payment may also be replaced, either wholly or in part, by repos compensateur de remplacement (compensatory rest).  The amount of rest corresponds with the equivalent hours worked, including the increased rate of pay.  For example, an overtime hour that would be paid at 50% would incur an equivalent rest period of 1.5 hours.

What happens in cases where the contingent annuel is exceeded?

Overtime worked over the annual quota must be compensated for by contrepartie obligatoire en repos (mandatory rest) which is a statutory rule.

Such rest is given in addition to the related salary increase: either 50% of the overtime hours worked in excess of the contingent annuel, or 100% if the company employs more than 20 people.

Once they have accrued seven hours, the employee may take their rest in full or half days, within a period of two months (note: the company’s convention collective may specify alternative rules).

The conclusion for employers is that overtime can become very expensive if unsupervised, particularly once and after the contingent annuel is reached.  Careful monitoring of individual working time is therefore essential, particularly as the employer will need evidence of an employee’s actual working time to counteract a claim for unpaid overtime.

Any questions?

Our experienced team at Viridian HR are very happy to answer queries about working time in France, and can offer extensive advice on the subject of employment law on both sides of the Channel.

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