After a year with many long weekends, employees will be required to work more days in 2016 since three of the eleven public holidays fall on a Sunday... In May 2016, only Thursday, May 5 (Ascension Day) and Monday, May 16 (Whit Monday) are public holidays falling on weekdays. This month of May is an opportunity to review the statutory rules concerning public holidays.

Which days are considered as public holidays in France ?

Article L. 3133-1 of the French Labor code provides a list of eleven public holidays in France: January 1, Easter Monday, May 1, May 8, Ascension Day, Whit Monday, July 14, Assumption Day, All Saints Day, November 11, and Christmas Day.

In addition to the statutory public holidays, there are also local celebrations in the Alsace-Moselle region (i.e, Good Friday) or in overseas territories (i.e, Commemoration Day of the abolition of slavery). Since a law dated April 16, 2008, there is no longer a requirement to perform the "solidarity day" (additional work day in favor of the elderly / disabled) on the public holiday of Whit Monday.

Can the employer require employees to work on a public holiday ?

In principle, over the eleven public holidays provided by the French Labor code, only May 1 must be a day off. For the other public holidays, the employer can require employees to work. However, many customs and Collective Bargaining Agreements provide either a day off or a special compensation in case of work on a public holiday.

Except otherwise provided in some sectors of activity, young workers (less than 18 years old) must not work on a public holiday.

May 1 is an exception: it is the only public holiday that is in principle not worked. Therefore, it is not possible to require employees to work on this day, except in certain companies and services which cannot interrupt their activity (transportation, hotels, hospitals, etc.).

How are worked public holidays paid ?

In case of work on a legal public holiday, the employee is not entitled to an additional compensation, except in case of more favorable provisions provided in the employment agreement or in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, the employer may choose to give, in consideration of this working day, a rest day or a financial compensation. For employees who, given the nature of their work,  must exceptionally work on May 1, they must receive double pay.  

How to manage a public holiday falling on the same day as a regular day off ?

A public holiday can coincide with a day the company is closed. In such a case, and subject to more favorable Collective Bargaining Agreements provisions, employees are not entitled to a financial or rest compensation.

A public holiday can also coincide with a vacation day. If the public holiday is not worked, this day is not taken into account as a vacation day. If the public holiday falls during a sick leave or maternity leave, there is no consequence on the remuneration or the duration of this leave (the term does not have to be extended).

Can an employer refuse to give a "bridge" ?

Public holidays are also often synonym of week-end "bridges" ("ponts"). The practice of giving a week-end "bridge" consists in not working one or two days falling between a public holiday and the week-end. For instance, this summer, it will be possible for the employer to accept a week-end "bridge" if an employee asks to not work on Friday July 15, Thursday July 14 being a public holiday (Bastille day). Except in case of more favorable custom within the company, there is no obligation for the employer to accept such requests.

Number of the month

18 Is the number of public holidays in India and in Colombia, placing both countries in the first place with respect to the number of annual public holidays. With eleven public holidays, France is in the international average.