Is It Illegal to Work on the Weekend in Paris?

Wondering if it’s illegal to work on the weekend in Paris?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Not only do I live in France, but I’ve also worked in several cities including Paris. I’ve gone on interviews in both the private and public sectors and held various work contracts. So you can rest assured that I know my rights as an employee.

And it’s to your benefit to know them as well, especially if you’re moving to France for the first time.

In this post, I’ll not only cover whether it’s illegal to work on weekends in Paris, but I’ll also go over the working culture and labor laws in France.

Is It Illegal to Work on Weekends in Paris
Is It Illegal to Work on Weekends in Paris?

Table of Contents

Is It Illegal to Work on Weekends in Paris?

No, it is not illegal to work on weekends in Paris, but there are restrictions.

An employee cannot work more than six days per week and must have at least 35 consecutive hours (or two days) away from work.

One of these two days is supposed to be Sunday, but for certain sectors, like tourism, this isn’t possible. So, extra labor laws are in place to protect these workers.

While these laws define when you can and cannot be at work, they do not cover what’s allowed during your time off.

To address this gap, a new law came into effect in 2017. It’s called the “Right to Disconnect.”

It states that an employee has the right to disconnect from all digital tools, such as phones and computers, during rest periods. This includes holidays and personal time. And employers are required to educate their employees on this law.

So, even though it’s not illegal to work on the weekends in Paris, it’s still one of the best places to live in France!

What are the Typical Work Hours in Paris?

For someone working full-time, the typical work hours are from 8 or 9 am to 4 or 5 pm. This includes an unpaid hour for lunch.

Streets of Paris during the Morning Rush Hour
Paris at Rush Hour

By law, a full-time employee cannot work more than 35 hours per week and more than 10 hours per day. Any extra time must be compensated with either time off or an increased salary.

Keep in mind that most people will work past the standard working time. It’s not uncommon to see people working extra hours to get more days off.

How Different is Paris Working Culture from Other Countries?

Compared to other countries in the European Union, like Germany, the work culture in Paris is not that different. In fact, there are more similarities than differences. But if you compare it to the United States, you’ll find that the working cultures are polar opposites.

The biggest difference comes from the labor laws which are more stringent in Paris. There are regulations on the number of hours people can work per week, and, even per day.

The working culture in Paris places emphasis on a good work-life balance. Employees are encouraged and even required to use their vacation days. And most people take upwards of three weeks of vacation at a time.

There’s also a strict line between work and personal life. While some coworkers might be friends outside the office, most keep their personal lives separate. It helps people completely disconnect from work and get the rest they need.

Finally, there’s time set aside for lunch in Paris. People usually take an hour for lunch, and they eat a real meal. You won’t see someone scarfing down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while walking to a meeting, for example.

Useful Tip: I was actually shocked by how different the French working culture was from the US. And I wish I would have known all of these things before moving abroad.

French Work Culture

The French work culture is often a source of fascination for many people around the world. With its emphasis on leisurely lunches and taking time off, it stands in stark contrast to more traditional American and British ways of working.

And, as someone who has worked in the US, the UK, and France, I know firsthand how different these working cultures are.

But there’s much more to the French approach than meets the eye.

Below I’ll cover some of the unique aspects of the French work culture and answer the most common questions.

The French Work Culture Prioritizes Work-Life Balance
A Parisian Restaurant Preparing for Lunchtime

Is It Illegal to Work Weekends in France?

No, it is not illegal to work weekends in France, but, just like in Paris, there are strict regulations.

While the typical French work week is Monday to Friday, some sectors need to operate on the weekends.

But Sunday is often a day off.

The French labor code says that you are entitled to two consecutive days off (or 35 hours) and one of those days should be Sunday. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, depending on your job.

Either way, no matter which days you work, it’s illegal to work more than six days per week.

Then, there’s the “Right to Disconnect.” It not only applies to Paris but also to the rest of the country. And it’s important to be aware of this law so your employer does not take advantage of you on your days off.

Is It Common to Take Vacation Days in France?

Yes, it is very common to take vacation days in France. And it’s one of the many reasons I like this country so much!

The French have one of the highest total number of days off in the world, with an average rate of 25 days per year. This only includes annual leave, if you consider public holidays, it comes out to 36 days per year!

Infographic Minimum Leave per Year by Country
Minimum Leave per Year by Country

There’s even a law in place that ensures an employee’s right to time off. Both full and part-time employees are guaranteed two and a half days off for every month they work.

But there’s a catch.

First, you need to start working before you have access to these days off. You can’t take a week off in your second month on the job, for example. And, if you change employers, the count restarts. It’s not carried over.

French Labor Laws

French labor laws can be described in one word – comprehensive.

They detail every aspect of the employee-employer relationship, which has been a source of controversy.

On one hand, they are seen as an important safeguard for workers’ rights; on the other, they are criticized for making it difficult to hire and fire people. Either way, you should know your basic rights before signing any work contract.

Working Hours

In France, for a full-time employee, the legal working time is 35 hours per week and no more than 10 hours per day. These hours are typically regulated between 8 or 9 am and 4 or 5 pm, including an unpaid hour for lunch. If an employee works more than these hours, it’s considered overtime and must be compensated.

Annual Leave

Anyone working in France is guaranteed two and a half days off for every month they work. In general, this comes out to 25 days off per year. And the longest leave must be longer than 12 working days and can’t exceed 24 working days.

There are, however, a few caveats.

First, your days off do not roll over if you start a new job. You have to re-earn them. Second, the longest leave must be taken between the 1st of May and the 31st of October. Exceptions can be made, but you’ll need the agreement of your employer.

You start earning days off once your contract begins, so after your first month, you’ll have two and a half days. But be careful! I’ve seen some work contracts that don’t allow employees to take any days off the first year. While this is illegal, if it’s written in your contract and you sign it, it’s binding.

Note: It’s extremely important to read your contract before signing it. You have the right to take as much time as you need to read your contract, despite what your employer might say.

French Work Hard so They Can Enjoy their Annual Leave
Enjoying the Views during my Annual Leave!

Working at Night

Working at night in France falls under a special category. It’s defined as any work that starts at 9 pm and finishes at 7 am.

Since these hours are outside the average working hours in France, anyone working at night has special benefits, such as extra time off for family obligations and mandatory rest days.

Of course, qualifying as a night worker is not as easy as just working one night shift. Agreements need to be in place, and you have to work the night shift at least 270 hours over the course of 12 months.

Sick Leave & Pay

You are entitled to four consecutive sick days before you have to submit a doctor’s note to your employer.

Note: An employer does not have the right to know why you are sick and they can’t ask.

After these four days, you go on an arrêt de travail or a work stoppage. Your salary is then paid by the national health insurance (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM)).

Most work contracts offer some type of coverage.

As an example, your employer might offer four months of coverage. Two months where you’ll get your full salary and two months prorated at 50%.

From there you’ll stop receiving a contribution from your employer but continue to be paid 50% of your salary from the CPAM.

But it won’t be forever. In some cases, it’s two months while in others it’s three years, it all depends on your work contract.

Parental Leave

France offers both maternity and paternity leave. And the length of time depends on several factors, such as the number of dependents.

For the first two children, expectant mothers get six weeks before birth and 10 weeks after. But the prenatal leave is not always necessary. With the approval of your doctor, it can be taken after birth.

The number of weeks for pre and postnatal leave increases to a total of 26 weeks for the third child.

Expectant fathers are also entitled to leave. If it’s your first child, you’ll get 25 days. The amount of leave then increases to 32 days for the second child.

Paid Leave

There are several other forms of paid leave in France and those are listed below.

  • Bereavement Leave – This includes the loss of a child or spouse.
  • Family Solidarity Leave – This gives you three months of leave if a relative has a life-threatening illness.
    Caregiver Leave – You can have up to a year of leave if a relative becomes handicapped.
  • Leave for Getting the French Nationality – You have the right to attend the welcoming ceremony for your French citizenship. It can vary from a full day to half a day, depending on your contract.
  • Family Leave – This is different from the Family Solidarity Leave and Bereavement Leave. This type of leave is all-encompassing and includes events like weddings.

While all these laws seem generous it’s important to note that you have to be in France to use them.

So, if you’re an expat and one of your parents becomes ill, you don’t have the right to take any of the above leaves in a foreign country. You and your parent(s) must live in France to qualify, even if you’re on a long-stay visa.

I experienced this problem when my mom fell ill. There are workarounds, but they are complicated. Make sure you understand your rights, so you don’t find yourself in a sticky situation.

Other Laws to Note

There are a few other laws that you should be aware of. And they are just as important as those listed above.

Unpaid Leave

There are several forms of unpaid leave, such as:

  • Sabbatical Leave – You can suspend your contract for a maximum of 11 months. There are certain requirements that you must fulfill, like working for the same employer for 36 months. And, even then, not everyone is eligible.
  • Setting up a Business – If you work for at least two years at the same company, you have the option to take two years off to start your own business.

Work Contracts

Every employee is entitled to a work contract.

There are two types of contracts in France. A CDI (contract de travail à durée indéterminée) or permanent contract and a CDD (contract de travail à durée déterminée) or fixed term contract.

A CDI contract offers the maximum number of benefits whereas a CDD offers the minimum. But with a CDD contract, it’s nearly impossible to get fired.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. So, it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you sign your contract.

Language in the Workplace

French people have the right to speak French at work since the national language is French. And employers can’t ask them to speak another language unless it’s in their contract.

The French are very proud of their language and you should have some knowledge of it before starting a new job.

I recommend learning how to use “bonjour” and going from there.

Public versus Private Sector

Oddly enough, the labor laws for the private and public sectors are different. 

Somehow the French administration was able to create a separate set of laws that allows them to do whatever they want. And they are seldom in favor of the employee. It’s one of the few reasons why I hate France.

I strongly advise anyone planning to work in the public sector to know what they are getting into beforehand.

Conclusion: Is It Illegal to Work on the Weekend in Paris?

France has a comprehensive set of labor laws that are designed to protect employees. These laws govern everything from paid leave to minimum wage. There’s even a law that dictates the number of days a person can work per week. Unfortunately, it is not illegal to work on the weekend in Paris. But there are a ton of other benefits that come with working in France. Just be sure you know your rights before signing your contract. It will make your life easier and much more enjoyable. After all, it’s to your benefit.


Read More Article About France

I hope you enjoyed my article about the French labor laws and whether it’s illegal to work on the weekends in Paris. Here are some other articles that I think you might find interesting.


Jen Ciesielski
Jen Ciesielski

Jen Ciesielski is the creator of Dabbling in Jet Lag. She has lived abroad for over ten years, traveled to more than 50 countries, and speaks French and English fluently. Her areas of expertise include moving abroad, learning languages, and travel planning. Originally from the United States, she now lives in France, where she has been for more than six years. She has also traveled extensively around the country. She shares her experiences as an expat living in France and helps thousands of people plan their trips every month.

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