France: Paid leaves under French law: a look back at the recent change in legislation

In France, employees acquire 2,5 days of paid leave per months, amounting to 5 weeks of paid leave per year, 30 days.

Employees whose duration of work is determined on the basis of days rather than hours have additional paid leaves, which make up for the overtime.

So it is not uncommon in France for an employee to have 6 weeks of paid leave per year (but not for self-employed workers).

By derogation, the Labour Code stated that employees on sick leave did not acquire paid leaves, unless if their absences were caused by an accident at work or a work-related illness and even in this case, only the first year of absence gave right to paid leave.

Labour laws about paid leaves had been recently disrupted with the unexpected verdict given by the Cour de cassation (French’s civil highest court).

On 13th September 2023, the Court of cassation decided that:

  • employees whose absence were caused by an accident at work or a work-related illness must fully acquire paid leave during this period (2,5 days per months or 5 weeks a year, or 30 days);
  • employees whose absences were caused by an “ordinary” accident or disease (i.e. not an accident at work nor a work-related illness) must acquire paid leave during this period within the limit of 2 days per month or 4 weeks per year;
  • employee was entitled to make that claims before a judge without any limitation period.

This decision was issued by the Court of cassation to ensure compliance of the French law with the European law.

This decision gave all the Company and their lawyer hard time getting through all the details and the new positions of the judge.

A law voted on 22nd April 2024 on emergency tried to incorporate in the French Labour Code the changes made by the Court of cassation regarding acquisition of paid leaves, and its goal was to simplify this decision. Clearly, it didn’t make it.

Given the position of the Cour de cassation, the main issue, even if it was not the only one, was relating to the limitation period as any employees was entitled to claim his paid leave even years after his absences or even the termination of his labor contract.

The employer must now inform the employees who were on sick leave of the number of paid leave available and the date until which these days can be taken.

Employees who are unable to take their paid leave during the sick leave period from a deferral period of 15 months, which begins from the moment their employer informs them of their leave rights.

A limitation period is set from December 1st, 2009, to April 24th, 2024 for sick leaves caused by a ordinary accident or disease, up to 24 days of sick leave per year. However, the law does not mention sick leave caused by accident at work or a work-related illness. We don’t know for sure if this kind of sick leaves are really outside the scope.

Any claim must be introduced before April 24th 2026.

There is still many questions and interpretation of this new law as many details are pretty murky.

The case law from all the French labor court and court of appeal will as usual bring a lot of explications and answers, and also probably a lot of discrepancies between each decision.

Unfortunately, the rules about the rules concerning the paid leave during a sick leave will remain very tricky for many months to come under the French labor law.