The first rays of sunshine announce upcoming summer vacation. Now is the time of the year to determine the company's vacation schedule!

How to determine the number of days of paid vacation?

Each month of effective employment allows an employee to benefit from 2.5 working days of paid vacation. Additional days may however be provided for in collective bargaining agreements or statutory provisions. An employee who works during the entire reference period will therefore benefit from 30 business days of paid vacation (or 25 working days), i.e. 5 weeks of paid vacation per year.

What are the differences between the calculation in working days and the calculation in business days?

Paid vacation is usually calculated in working days. Every day of the week is therefore taken into account (including days that are generally not worked, such as Saturdays), except for Sundays and bank holidays.

However, it is possible to calculate paid vacation in business days (only days which are usually worked in the company, are then taken into account),as long as this is not less favorable for the employee.

What is the reference period?

This is the employee's period of work used as a basis for calculating rights to paid vacation. This period starts onJune 1st and ends on May 31st of the following year, except if a different period is provided for in the applicable collective bargaining agreement.

What is the time period during which paid vacation can be taken?

The period during which paid vacation can be taken is the time period during which employees having accrued paid vacation rights are allowed to take them. This time period may be more or less extended but must at least include the period from May 1st to October 31st of each year.

In the course of the period during which paid vacation may be taken, the employee must take at least 12 successive working days of paid vacation, without exceeding 24 cumulative working days ("main leave").

However, some employees may, under specific conditions, be authorized to take their five weeks of paid vacation in a row.

Nonetheless, this rule does not prevent employees from taking their vacation on other dates, especially their 5th week, during winter holidays or end of year holidays.

It is nevertheless necessary to ensure that employees take their "main leave" (i.e. at least 12 working days in a row), during the reference period defined above. 

In any case, it is important to remind employees, towards the end of the time period during which paid vacation can be taken, that the days accrued but not taken before May 31st will be lost.

Do absent employees accrue paid vacation days?

It is important to underline that some absences are considered, by law and case law, as periods of actual work during which the employee continues to accrue paid vacation days. This is, in particular, the case for absences related to: 

  • compensatory time-off,
  • RTT days,
  • maternity, adoption or paternity leave,
  • legal leave for family events,
  • medical exams related to maternity,
  • training leave,
  • periods during which the employment agreement is suspended following a work-related injury, a commuting accident or a work-related illness.

Other absences may also be considered by the applicable collective bargaining agreement as periods of actual work for the accrual of paid vacation.

Going against the case law of the European Court of Justice, French judges currently consider that absences for a non work-related illness do not allow for the accrual of paid vacation. However, an overturn of the French courts' case law, therefore allowing for the accrual of paid vacation in case of non work-related illness, cannot be excluded.

How to organize the vacation roster?

The employer has the obligation to organize paid vacation and set up the dates of leave for every employee. After having consulted with the employee representatives, the employer must therefore:

  • Inform employees of the period during which paid vacation may be taken, two months before it starts (for example by posting, email, internal memo, etc.). If that period is the same every year, the information may be permanent.
  • Set up the order in which employees will leave, according to fixed criteria(for example, according to the employee's family status, seniority or other professional activities) and possibly after having collected the employee's requests. 
  • Display the dates of leave of every employee at least one month before the first departures.

Can the employer modify the dates of paid vacation at the last minute?

Normally, the employer cannot modify the approved dates of paid vacation less than a month before the departure. However, the initial dates may be modified at the last minute in case of exceptional circumstances (such as exceptional client orders, sudden death of an employee, etc.). An employee who is forced to change the dates of his/her vacation because of such modification, usually receives financial compensation.

Finally, do not forget:

  • to inform payroll of the use of paid vacation so that the days taken can effectively be counted as such and therefore deduced from the total accrued amount of paid vacation days mentioned on pay slips;
  • and to remind employees that accrued days which are not taken before May 31st will be lost!