Nieuws14 april 2022

NLBC.FR: French employees only work 35 hours a week!

Common preconceptions about French employment law

Blogpost 2: French employees only work 35 hours a week!

Another common preconception about French employment law is the 35-hour work week. Although 35 hours is standard, it is not the weekly maximum.

Employees can work overtime

Overtime gives employers flexibility because employees can work overtime up to these limits: 

  • 48 hours per week, with an average of 44 hours per week over 12 consecutive weeks;
  • 10 hours per day;
  • A maximum 13 working hours per day.

Employees must be given a minimum rest period of 11 hours between two working days.

You may think overtime is expensive.

Overtime is paid at an increased hourly rate. Under the French Labour Code, the hourly rate is 25% higher for the first eight hours of overtime, from the 36th to the 43rd hour, inclusive. Then it’s 50% higher for each hour after the 43rd hour.

However, industry- or company-wide agreements can provide for a lower overtime rate, although not below 10%.

In addition, under certain conditions, overtime hours can be compensated by the equivalent time in rest days.

Working hours can be adjusted over a year, or more

Under a company-level collective bargaining agreement, working hours can be adjusted over a year and even up to three years. This allows companies to adapt working time to peaks and lows in activity. Weeks during which employees work more than 35 hours are offset by weeks in which they work fewer than 35 hours. As a result, the hours above 35 during certain weeks are not considered overtime.

Management time can be calculated in days

For executive-level employees who organise their own time schedule, working time can be calculated in annual days rather than weekly hours. This must be provided for under a collective bargaining agreement. By calculating working time in days, the employer avoids the overtime issue.

Check the industry specific agreement

Always check the industry-wide agreement applicable to your business. It can give leverage and flexibility and help assess if it is useful to conclude a working time collective agreement for your company. In this respect, it is important to bear in mind that, except under certain specific conditions, the company-level agreement prevails over the industry-level agreement even if it derogates and gives less favorable terms to employees.


With the right advice, rules governing working time in France can allow any employer to set-up a flexible working time arrangement to suit its business.


MGG Voltaire is a member of the Netherlands Business Council France.