Although Sunday rest is still the general rule under French Labor law, a bill recently adopted extends the possibility of working on Sundays, especially for employees working in tourist and “thermal” areas (areas with hot springs or natural thermal baths) and those working in urban units with more than a million inhabitants.

These new exceptions to the Sunday rest rule do not apply to food markets, which have only been impacted by a new rule allowing them to remain open an hour longer on Sundays (i.e. until 1 pm instead of noon).

General rule

In compliance with French working time regulations, employees must not work for more than six days in a row and they must be granted minimum rest of 35 hours per week (i.e. one day off plus minimum daily rest of eleven hours). Such rest should, in principle, be given on Sundays.

New or amended exceptions

The new Law, in force since August 12, 2009, both provides for new exceptions and extends existing exceptions for work on Sundays.

Tourist and thermal cities and areas of exceptional inflow or permanent cultural entertainment

Pursuant to the new legal provisions, retailers situated in tourist and thermalcities or areas of exceptional inflow or permanent cultural entertainment (a list will be established in this respect by the French administration) may open their stores on Sundays during the whole year without being obliged to obtain a prior authorization from the administration. Previously, such exception was limited to certain types of trade and to certain periods during the year, and retailers had to request the administration’s prior authorization. Now, employees who fall within the scope of the extended exception are not entitled to any additional salary or time-off compensation, unless a collective agreement provides differently. Thanks to this new regulation, the Louis Vuitton store on Champs-Elysées is now allowed to open its doors seven days a week.

Urban units with more than a million inhabitants A new exception has been introduced for urban units with more than a million inhabitants in

which it has become customary in certain areas for consumers to shop on Sundays. Retail businesses situated in these areas may file an individual or collective request with the administration in order to obtain an authorization to have their employees work on Sundays. Such authorization is limited to a 5-year period and employees have to agree to Sunday work, it being underlined that an employee’s refusal constitutes neither a fault nor a valid ground of dismissal. Compensation for Sunday work is determined by either a collective agreement or by the employer’s unilateral decision. In the absence of a collective agreement, the law provides for a minimum compensation, i.e. compensatory rest in addition to double pay. Moreover, the employer must inform and consult the works council or staff delegates about the contemplated compensation and request the consent of the concerned employees by means of a referendum. The Préfet will list the relevant urban units (as of today, Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Lille) and delineate the areas for which an “exceptional level of consumption” has been recognized.

Exceptions granted by majors

As before, the city mayors may grant a maximum of five Sundays per year on which the retail stores are allowed to open, but the new law reinforces the employee’s rights in terms of compensation. Indeed, employees are now entitled to double pay and equivalent compensatory rest whereas, under the former legislation, salary increases were limited to 33% and the duration of the compensatory rest was not determined.

Non-amended exceptions

The existing exception for Sunday work applicable to hotels, bars, restaurants, museums, etc. remains unchanged. Similarly, exceptions for work on Sunday may be implemented within a specific industry (in particular manufacturing plants) through a collective bargaining agreement.