Working Times and the 35-Hour Week in France

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French employees are serious about work/life balance.  In 2016, France adopted a labour law that included the “right to disconnect”, in order to stop employers’ calls and emails from intruding on workers’ personal and family lives.

It therefore goes to follow that the entire concept of working time can be a delicate issue in France; bound by the various terms and complexities of labour law, and also payroll.

Working time responsibilities

Employers are responsible for controlling their employees’ working time, and should a dispute arise, provide proof of the time worked. 

While this may seem a little daunting at first glance, in fact those are the two most important points to keep in mind.  Ultimately, the burden of proof regarding time worked does not rest with employees themselves.

So, employers must ensure they have in place a clear, effective method of monitoring and controlling the time worked by their individual employees, including those working from remote locations. 

It is worth noting that sanctions are punishing for those employers who do not comply: beyond employment tribunal action the Labour Inspection (“Inspection du travail”) could impose administrative fines of up to 4,000€ per offence and per employee.  Offending companies may also be subject to an URSSAF audit, to check for concealed work.

The 35-hour week

For a full-time employee in France, their legal working time will generally be fixed at:

  • 35 hours per week
  • 151.67 hours per month
  • 1,607 hours per year

However, conventional provisions may lead to a working week that consists of a fewer or greater number of hours, although any time worked over the legal 35 hours per week is classed as overtime. 

Companies in France are usually placed under a Convention Collective Nationale (CCN); along with selected company agreements, these have the power to set alternative working patterns if this is deemed necessary.

What is the maximum daily working time in France?

Temps de Travail Effectif (TTE) is defined as time during which an employee is considered to be at their employer’s disposal; completing work and complying with reasonable instructions without recourse to personal business or engagements.

Although the TTE must not exceed its maximum daily duration of 10 hours, there are some notable exceptions.  These include a specific request from the employer (who must seek agreement from the labour inspection), an emergency linked with a temporary increase in work activity, or via collective agreement.

Regardless of the exception, the maximum daily working time can only increase by two additional hours – so, a total of 12 hours per working day.  From a weekly standpoint, the TTE must not exceed 48 hours in a single week, or 44 hours over a consecutive 12-week period.

Is commuting time considered to be part of the TTE?

Travelling to and from the workplace is not usually considered as part of the TTE, and does not allow employees an entitlement to be paid overtime. 

However, in circumstances where specific business trips exceed an employee’s normal commuting time (such as working from a different office, or a meeting with a customer in a separate location), compensation must be provided in the form of either payment or rest.

The form and method of such compensation is generally decided by the CCN or under a separate company agreement.  If neither are applicable, terms are set directly by the employer following consultation with the Social and Economic Committee.

Breaks, weekends, and public holidays

French employees are legally entitled to a break of 20 consecutive minutes once they have worked six hours, together with time for lunch, which is taken between two periods of work.

(Employers should note: in France, it is ‘illegal’ to eat lunch at one’s desk!)

Employees are not considered to be under the direction of their employer during break times, so these do not form part of the TTE and are as such unpaid.  This jurisdiction changes for employees who are expected to answer the phone and be ‘on call’ during their breaks; the time is then classed as TTE and paid accordingly.

Although there is no mandatory requirement that means employees are paid extra for working on a Sunday or public holiday, the CCN will often make specific provisions.

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. Contact us to find out more.

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