How to take vacations in France

In this guide I cover how to take vacations in France as an employee.

Vacation days

In France, you are entitled to a minimum of 5 weeks of paid vacation per year. This equates to 2.5 vacation days per month of work. However, some collective agreements or employment contracts may provide for more vacation days.

The vacation days are calculated based on the reference period, which runs from June 1st to May 31st of the following year. For example, if you worked from June 1st, 2022 to May 31st, 2023, you would have acquired 30 vacation days (2.5 x 12) that you can use from June 1st, 2023 to May 31st, 2024.

You must use your vacation days

You are not allowed to waive your right to take vacation days, nor can you exchange them for money, except for the last year of your employment contract. Vacation days need to be used within the reference period mentioned above. You can request a carry-over period of up to 5 years if agreed by your employer. If you do not use your vacation days within the allowed period, you may lose them.

Employer can reject your vacation request

You cannot take vacation days whenever you want. You must request them from your employer at least one month in advance, unless otherwise agreed. Your employer has the right to accept or refuse your request. Your employer must also inform you of the dates of your vacation at least one month before they start.

Types of vacation days in France

In France, there are various types of paid and unpaid leave that you can take. They include:

This is the main type of PTO that you are entitled to by law. You can take up to 30 working days (“jours ouvrables”) of paid vacation per year, which you acquire at a rate of 2.5 days per month of work.

Unpaid leave (“Congé sans solde”)

This is a type of leave that employees can take for personal reasons, such as travel, education, or family matters. You must obtain the agreement of your employer to take unpaid leave, and specify the duration and dates of the leave. During unpaid leave, you do not receive any salary or benefits from your employer, nor do you accumulate any vacation days or seniority.

Reduction of working time (“RTT – réduction du temps de travail”)

This is a type of PTO that you may be able to take for working more than the legal 35 hours per week. Some companies and collective bargaining agreements may offer RTT days to employees who work longer hours, up to two days per month.

It is very common for employees with a CDI contract to receive RTT days. RTT days are calculated by subtracting the contracted days from the working days in the year. You cannot carry RTT days to the following year.

Learn more about getting a job in Paris and types of employment contracts ->

If you change jobs

Use your vacation days

If you change jobs, you should use your vacation days before leaving your current employer, unless you agree otherwise. You cannot transfer your vacation days from one employer to another.

Get paid for your unused vacation days

If you have not used all your vacation days when you leave your current employer, you are entitled to receive compensation for your unused vacation days. This compensation is calculated based on your average salary and the number of vacation days you have acquired but not taken.

For example, if you have an average salary of €2,000 per month and you have 10 unused vacation days, you will receive compensation of €666.67 (2,000 x 10 / 30).

Public holidays

There are 11 official public holidays in France (12 in Paris), plus two additional ones for Alsace and Moselle regions.

Learn more about public holidays here ->

Sabbatical leave

Sabbatical leave is a leave of absence for personal reasons that allows an employee to suspend their employment contract for a period of between 6 and 11 months. To be eligible for sabbatical leave, you must meet the following conditions:

  • Have at least 36 months of seniority in the company
  • Have at least 6 years of work experience
  • Have not taken sabbatical leave, individual training leave, or business creation leave in the past 6 years

You must inform their employer at least three months before the planned departure date by sending a written request with the dates of the leave. Your employer has 30 days to respond to the request. Your employer can accept or refuse the request, depending on the situation of the company and the number of employees on leave.

During sabbatical leave, you do not receive any salary from their employer, nor any daily allowances from social security.

At the end of sabbatical leave, you must return to your previous position or an equivalent one with the same salary and benefits.

Sick leave

To be entitled to sick leave, you must meet the following conditions:

  • Be a member of social security for at least three months
  • Have worked at least 150 hours in the last three months or have contributed at least 1,015 times the hourly minimum wage in the last six months
  • Have a medical certificate issued by a doctor within 48 hours of stopping work

You must inform your employer as soon as possible and send them the medical certificate within 48 hours. Some employers don’t request this document and may not log that you have taken a sick day, however this is the exception not the norm. You must also send the medical certificate to CPAM.

During sick leave, you receive daily allowances from social security, which amount to 50% of your average daily salary, up to a maximum of €51.70 per day. The daily allowances will be paid after three days, unless you are hospitalized or have a long-term illness.

Additional sick leave compensation

You may also receive additional compensation from your employer, if you meet the following conditions:

  • Have at least one year of seniority in the company
  • Be up to date with your social security contributions
  • Follow your medical treatments and the rules of sick leave

The additional compensation from the employer is calculated as follows:

  • For the first 30 days of sick leave, the employee receives 90% of their gross salary
  • For the next 30 days of sick leave, the employee receives 66.66% of their gross salary

The additional compensation is paid for a maximum duration that depends on the seniority of the employee in the company, as shown in the table below:

SeniorityMaximum duration
1 to 5 years60 days
6 to 10 years80 days
11 to 15 years100 days
16 to 20 years120 days
21 to 25 years140 days
26 to 30 years160 days
More than 30 years180 days
How seniority in a company impacts maximum sick duration an employee can take