Now more than ever, labor and employment initiatives are on the agenda of the Sarkozy government, with the objective of providing more flexibility to working time. The most recent example is the law dated August 20, 2008, reforming, in particular, regulations on (i) overtime, as well as (ii) the computation of annual working time. 

New Regulations on Overtime

Thus far, overtime can be performed within the limit of an annual quota set by collective bargaining agreements (either at the level of the activity sector in an industry or at the company level) or, in the absence of a collective bargaining agreement, by means of an administrative decree, which has set the maximum overtime quota at 220 working hours per employee per year (the “Quota”). Additional overtime—on top of the Quota—can be performed upon prior (i) authorization from the government labor agency, which can always refuse to grant authorization, and (ii) consultation with the employee representatives (when such representatives exist in the company).

As of the date of publication of the August law (i.e., as of August 21, 2008), employers will be able to require additional overtime—on top of the Quota—without having to obtain the prior approval of the government labor agency. Employers will still be required to consult with the employee representatives, however. 

Employees performing overtime within the limit of the Quota will now receive conventional overtime pay, but without the compensatory time off that used to accompany it. Overtime hours beyond the Quota will entail compensatory time off in addition to monetary compensation. 

New Regulations on Annual Working-Time Computation

French law allows employees (mainly management-level employees) who perform their duties in an autonomous manner to have their working time computed by reference to a set number of working days per year, as opposed to a set number of working hours per week. The number of working days is set by collective bargaining agreements (either at the level of the activity sector in an industry or at the company level). So far, the maximum working-time limit has been set by law at 218 working days per year, preventing employers from setting a higher number of working days, even with the prior consent of employees.

As of the date of publication of the August law (i.e., as of August 21, 2008), employees will be entitled to request to work more than the number of working days to which they are subject, within an overall limit set at 235 working days per year. Employers will be entitled to exceed this limit, up to an absolute maximum number of 285 working days, by negotiating and entering into companywide collective bargaining agreements.

Days worked beyond 218 days per year will be treated as overtime and will entail a 10 percent minimum premium over the normal salary rate.