Working Time in France

An insight into working time in France, from the 35 hours week to annual working time agreements.

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The question of working time in France arises regularly in the public debate. With its legal 35-hour working week, France is officially among the countries with the shortest legal working weeks in Europe. However, OECD studies show, that employees in France work actually more than employees in countries such as Austria, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway.

Is 35-hour the Standard Working Week in France?

Introduced about 20 years ago, the legal 35-hour working week is not at all the standard in France. Many employees work 39 hours per week or more. For certain professions, it is even common to agree on a fixed number of annual hours, or fixed number of annual working days.

What you need to know about Weekly Working Time In France​

In France, employment contracts with weekly working hours are the most common. These do not necessarily have to be for a 35-hours week. It is possible to conclude contracts that already include overtime, or, on the contrary, to conclude part-time contracts. For both contracts, specific regulations have to be respected.  

Exceeding 35 Hours per Week in France

In France, any hour exceeding the 35-hour week is considered overtime. Under French labor law, an overtime surchage applies: 25% for the first 8 hours per week, and 50% for further hours. Certain collective bargaining agreements stipulate different overtime pay rates. 

It is possible, and very common, to contractually agree on a weekly working time of more than 35 hours. However, in that case, extra hours must explicitly be mentioned in the French employment contract and on the French Payslip

Lastly, there is an annual quota for overtime, generally 220 hours per year. When this quota is exceeded, the employee it entitled to extra rest time.

Part-Time Contracts

Any employee working less than 35 hours per week is considered part-time. These employee can work additional hours, but only within strict limits. Extra hours are subject to a salary surcharge.

The part-time contract must respect a minimum working time which is generally 24 hours per week.

Rest Time and Maximum Weekly Working Time in France

Under French laws, the maximum weekly working time is 48 hours, within the limit of a 12-week average of 44 hours. Generally, the daily minimum rest time is 11 consecutive hours and the weekly minimum rest time is 35 consecutive hours.  

Annual Working Time in France

For some employees a weekly working time may seem rather unsuitable. Certain employees have to organize their working hours flexibly. This is notably the case for executives and sales staff. In such cases, concluding an individual agreement on a lump-sum of annual working time can be considered. These are stringently regulated by French laws.

Working Time for Executives: Annual Working Day Agreement

A study by the French Ministry of Labor reveals that almost every second executive level employee has an annual working day agreement. Executives need to have a large autonomy and independency, in regard to the exercise of their work as well as the organization of their schedule. 

This type of contract allows to fix the working time in a flat-rate system in days, without counting the working time in hours. Overtime payment does no longer apply, neither do daily or weekly maximum working hours. In return, the employee benefits from additional rest days. Generally, the number of working days is between 214 and 218. However, it is possible to buy remaining rest days. 

Setting up an Annual Working Day Agreement

To set up an annual working day agreement, two conditions have to be met:

  • The possibility for an annual working day agreement must be provided for by a collective agreement, either at industry or company level.
  • The application of the annual working day agreement must be fixed by signing an individual agreement. 

Right to Disconnect

All employees, including employees with an annual working day agreement, have the right to daily and weekly rest periods, as well as the right to disconnect.

As the employer cannot monitor the hours in the case of an annual working day agreement, it is important to monitor the workload and the number of days worked. Both must be reasonable. The collective agreement must provide for sufficient measures to guarantee the employees’ right to disconnect and to rest, in order to protect employees’ health. This provision is very important and has been the cause for lawsuits in recent years.

Working Time of Executive Company Directors

Exceptions may apply to executives with leadership roles such as company directors, referred to as ‘cadre dirigeant’ in French. To be considered ‘cadre dirigeant’, a wide range of criteria has to be met. For instance, they must be able to take company decisions of a certain importance and their remuneration must be among the highest in the company remuneration system. 

If the ‘cadre dirigeant’ status is fixed contractually, rules related to working time do no longer apply. 

Working Time for Sales Staff: Annual Working Hour Agreement

Many collective branch agreements provide for the possibility to conclude annual working hour agreements. These are common for sales staff as well as some executives. This option is suitable if the work schedule cannot be fixed weekly or monthly, notably when the work volume varies during the year. 

The provisions on maximum working hours and rest time apply. 

Setting up an Annual Working Hour Agreement

First of all, a collective company or industry agreement must provide for the option of annual working hour agreements. Second, an individual flat-rate agreement of annual hours must be signed. 

Annual Working Hour Agreements can only be proposed to:

  • Executives whose functions are not compatible with the collective working time and schedule
  • Non-executive employees with the necessity of real autonomy regarding the organization of their schedule


Though the 35-hour week is the legal working time, it is not at all the standard in France. Many employee work 39 hours per week or more. Alternatives exist for executives and sales staff. 

Working time is a crucial element of the French employment contract. It is important to familiarize yourself with the different options in order to make the appropriate choice for your case. My Payroll Pro France, as your French payroll provider, and our partner network of lawyers will be of your assistance. 

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