France Country Profile - Working Practices

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Working hours

France has a 35-hour working week, which is enshrined in law. Employers wanting more hours from their employees must pay between 10% and 50% extra per hour. The French working week is shorter than many other European nations and reflects a hardwired cultural commitment to a decent work/life balance.

Maternity pay in France is considered generous compared to other European countries. All women are entitled to six week’s maternity leave before and 10 weeks after the births of their first two children. New fathers are entitled to 11 days leave, which must be taken in one chunk within the first four months of the birth.


All employees are entitled to an average of five weeks of paid holiday each year. This is calculated as two-and-a-half days per month, worked between 1st June and 31st May. There are certain rules on how holiday is used, for example the maximum days taken at once must not be more than 24. Most holidays are taken in August so it can be very difficult to get in contact with your French counterparts during this month.

Public holidays

There are 10 public holidays in France, as well as at least two unofficial holidays, including the March equinox and St Stephen’s Day on 26th December. Most employers recognise and give workers time off to celebrate holidays, even if they are only observed locally.

Public holidays 2019

New Year’s Day: 1st January
Easter Monday: 22nd April
Labour Day: 1st May
Ascension Day: 30th May
Whit Monday: 10th June
Bastille Day: 14th July
Assumption of Mary: 15th August
All Saints’ Day: 1st November
Armistice Day: 11th November
Christmas Day: 25th December

Visas and eligibility

All citizens from EU and EEA countries can travel freely to France using a national ID card or passport. France is part of the Schengen Agreement which allows citizens to remain in the country for 90 days without a visa.

For longer-term stays in the country, EU/EEA citizens may need to register for residency at the local mairie (town hall). This is not mandatory but acquiring a French residency permit can help you access public services.

Non-EU/EEA citizens will require a visa to enter France which must be applied for in your home nation. You will also need to apply for a residence permit (carte de sejour) from the préfecture de Police within three months of arrival. The application process can take several months to complete. For more information visit the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration.


Taxation in France is among the highest in Europe. The three types of tax, which all residents and expats living and working (for more than 183 days a year) in France must pay are: income tax (impôt sur le revenu); social security contributions (charges sociales); and tax on goods and services (taxe sur la valeur ajoutée TVA).

Expats usually pay an average of 20% of their income in tax on top of a residence tax (taxe d’habitation). Unlike other countries, which deduct income tax automatically from wages, in France workers must complete an annual tax return (déclaration de revenus). Tax is calculated for the calendar year and returns must be completed by 31st May for the previous year. If you are late you can be hit with a penalty equivalent to 10% of your tax bill.


France has one of the best-funded social security systems in the world which covers healthcare, sickness, unemployment, state pension, family and maternity and paternity benefits. While the social security system is notoriously complex and subject to changes, generally EU/EEA citizens are covered in France by their home county’s own systems. For those from outside the EU, a residency permit is required to be eligible for state benefits. All residents in France are eligible to use the health care system. Your employer should register you with the URSSAF (Union de Recouvrement des Cotisations de Sécurité Sociale et d'Allocations Familiales) to ensure you are eligible for benefits.


Contributory pensions are generally allocated to people with at least 37.5 years of work behind them. The amount is calculated depending on a person’s age and salary levels and their social security contributions over their lifetime. Non-contributory pensions are means-tested and are granted to people aged between 50 and 65. To qualify, you must be a resident in France and on a relatively low income. These pensions were introduced in 1956 and were intended for those who have not been in paid work either because of ill health or because of caring duties.


The rights of disabled workers in France are protected by the 2005 Disability Act. Employers are given cash bonuses for hiring disabled employees for over 12 consecutive months. The law also requires employers to provide access and adjust working hours and shifts to accommodate disabled workers. Disabled workers are also allowed to retire early (from age 55) if they have more than 30 working years behind them. In France, it is illegal to discriminate on the grounds of someone’s disability and a worker cannot be made redundant because of their disability. The HALDE (High Authority against Discrimination) handles all discrimination complaints.

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