Remaining Vacation Days: Carry Over & Loss

A Guide to handling remaining vacation days in France : carry over & loss

Can vacation days in France be carried over or are these remaining vacation days lost? This question arises each year. Paid vacation is one of the most important employee benefit in France. To avoid tension between employee and employer, both parties should be familiar with the applicable rules. French rules provide for some particularities, significantly different from other countries’ rules.

To understand when remaining vacation days are carried over and when they might be lost, it is important to explain the difference between the French reference period for the acquisition of vacation days and the period for taking vacation days.

When are vacation days in France lost?

In France, paid vacation days are acquired during a reference period which, based on the French Labor Code, is fixed to the period running from 01/06 until 31/05 of the following year (01/06/Y-1 until 31/05/Y). These days can be taken by anticipation during the same period, and must be taken, according to French laws, during the following 12-months-period (until 31/05/Y+1). At the end of this second 12-months-period, they must be cleared. If not cleared, they might be lost.

Hint: It is possible to fix a different period by company agreement, e.g. the calendar year.

Example: carry over & loss of remaining vacation days

For a whole reference year, employees acquire 5 weeks of vacation days based on the French Labor Code. Legally, these 5 weeks are fixed to 30 days based on a 6-day-work week, 2.5 days per month. In practice, these 5 weeks are often managed based on a 5-day week, meaning 2.08 days per month and 25 days for a whole year.

The acquired days, the taken days as well as the remaining days are indicated on the French Payslip.

For a better understanding, here an example of remaining vacation days carry over & loss.

Acquisition during the reference period 01/06/2022 until 31/05/2023 : 25 days based on a 5-day-work week

Vacation days taken:
3 days taken per anticipation from 27/12 until 29/12/2022
20 days taken from 03/07 until 31/07/2023
1 day taken the 29/12/2023
= 24 days taken in total, 1 day remaining as of 31/05/2024

The remaining day as of 31/05/2024 is in theory lost, if no exception applies.

Loss of remaining days in France: the exceptions

To protect the employee’s rights, there are two exceptions when remaining days are not lost:
Exception 1: The employee was unable to take the vacation days due to an absence. For instance, if the employee had been sick leave or on maternity leave, the remaining days will be carried over.
Exception 2: The employee was unable to take his leave at the employer’s fault. If the employee regularly requested to take vacation days, and the employer refused his request for instance due to a very high workload, the employee will be able to claim the carry-over of his unused days.

In order to avoid any disputes between employee and employer, it is recommended to plan the annual leave in advance, and before cancelling any remaining vacation days it must be assessed, on a case by case basis, whether these remaining days are lossed or can be carried over.