Topic 1 Terminology and legal frameworks of the national labour market

Labor law is the set of legal rules applicable to relations between private employers and employees, in the sphere of work. It organizes professional working relations between the employer and the employee individually and the collective of employees. It covers many areas such as:

The employment contract


Safety and health at work


Working hours





Collective bargaining

Strike and employee representation

The law itself is constructed by numerous legal texts from different sources: international, European and national sources.

In general, employee protections in France are solid. For example, it is harder for employers to terminate employees in France than in many other countries In 2017, France also implemented a “right to disconnect” mandate, which legally entitles employees to not respond to business correspondence after working hours.  

The hierarchy of the different laws and regulations is as follows:

International and European laws → The constitution → Laws and degrees → Collective conventions and agreements → Unilateral agreements → The internal regulations of the company à The work contract

The collective agreement contains the rules of labor law (contract, leave, wages, etc.) applicable to a sector of activity. It is negotiated and concluded by the trade union organizations representing the employees and by the employers, possibly brought together in trade union organizations or associations. Each agreement defines its professional and territorial scope of application, which obliges all companies concerned to apply it, except in special cases.

If an agreement is applicable to the company, the employer must inform the employees. When hired, the employee must receive an information notice concerning the contractual texts which fix the obligations and the rights of the employer and the employee applicable in the company.

Full-time employees working a 35-hour week are entitled to a minimum of five weeks of paid leave annually. This is accrued at a rate of 2.5 days leave for every calendar month worked, up to a maximum of 30 days leave. Unless otherwise agreed with your employer, you cannot take more than 24 days’ annual leave consecutively. This equates to around four weeks.

In addition, France has 11 national public holidays throughout the year. Only 1 May (International Workers’ Day) is a mandatory holiday for all. However, if you do work this day, you’ll typically earn double pay for the day.

French labor law also offers other types and lengths of paid leave, such as:

  • celebrating your own, or your child’s wedding, or civil union
  • mourning the death of a child, spouse or partner, or a close relative
  • time off after the occurrence of a disability of a child
  • up to three months of leave to care for a relative or a close friend

In France your sick pay will come from the social security system,  not your employer. You can claim sick pay from your fourth day of work absence provided you have a sick note from your doctor. You’ll then start receiving up to half of the daily wage that you have been receiving in the previous three months.

As by the law, the standard workweek is 35 hours in France and anything over this is considered overtime and should be compensated as such.

Night work is defined as working between 9 pm and 6 am and shouldn’t in principle exceed 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week (44 hours if governed by decree or collective agreement). Employees also receive weekly rest days or extra pay for night work.

Discrimination is the unfair or prejudicial treatment of people and groups based on characteristics. It is illegal in both the workplace and during the recruitment process in France. This includes discrimination on the basis of race, sexuality, religious beliefs, disability, and trade union status –  both direct and indirect discrimination, as well as harassment. These are all punishable by hefty fines and, potentially, jail time.

To bring a claim of discrimination, bring it to your employer’s attention as they should have procedures in place. If this doesn’t work, you can bring your claim to the national body The Defender of Rights (le Défenseur des droits).