French Work Hours: My Comprehensive Guide

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| By : Louise
Born in Cameroon and adopted at 1 year in France. I spent all my childhood in Alsace before studying in Paris. I like to defend my beautiful country with its strengths and weaknesses. Find me on Linkedin and CV.

Bonjour bonjour les amis !

If you want to come and work in France, one topic is surely of interest to you: the French work hours.

I know this is a mythical subject for foreigners regarding working in France.

France is known as a country with few work hours, many vacations and days off!

Is this true? It’s not so simple !

I’ve been working in France for 15 years and I’ll summarize the work hours legislation in France.

Please ask in comments if you have some questions about French wor hours.


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french work hours (Official Sources)

In 2023 French work hours are generally 9 AM to 5 PM from Monday to Friday with a unpaid lunch break for a full-time employee (work week of 35 hours in general case).

So 7 working hours per day is usually applied in France.

Examples of typical French work hours :

  • 9 AM to 5 PM with 1 hour lunch break = 7 work hours
  • 9 AM to 6 PM with 2 hours lunch break = 7 work hours (French people like long lunch break at restaurant! 🙂 )
  • 8 AM to 4 PM with 1 hour lunch break = 7 work hours (good to pick up children to school!)
  • …etc

Note that your work hours depend on :

  • company, administration or activity sector you work for (collective agreement)
  • your type of employment contract
  • your legal duration of work in your employment contract

Official Source : Ministère du Travail (French Ministry of Labor).

French Work Hours : General Case

Since year 2000 and Aubry Law, the legal working time in France is :

  • 7 hours per day
  • 35 hours per week (7 x 5 days)
  • 151.67 hours per month
  • 1,607 hours per year

Important : depending on your sector of activity (collective agreement), the legal working time may be higher or lower than this legal working time of 35 hours per week.

Any hour worked over the legal working time of 35 hours is considered as “overtime hour” (In French : heure supplémentaire).

Maximum & Minimum Daily/Weekly French Work Hours

In France, maximum of work hours per day is 10 hours.

And maximum French work hours per week has 2 limits :

  1. 48 hours in a single week
  2. 44 hours per week on average over a period of 12 consecutive weeks

NB : it could be some derogations in some cases :

  • at the request of your organization (after approval of labor inspector)
  • in case of temporary increase of activity (emergency)
  • depending on your sector of activity (collective agreement)

French Work Hours : For Senior Executive (Fr : cadre)

Working time for French senior executive (cadre in French) is different : you should not respect a minimum or a maximum work time and work hours.

The statut of “senior executive” should be included in your employment contract and respect these 3 criteria:

  1. You have great responsibilities that implies independence and freedom in your work schedule
  2. You are allowed to take decisions independently
  3. You have a salary corresponding to the highest salaries in your organization

With these 3 criteria combined, you can be considered a senior executive (cadre).

Work Break Time & Lunch break in France

You are entitled to a break after 6 hours of nonstop work that lasts at least 20 minutes.

The break must be given either right away following 6 hours of work or before the six hours have passed.

NB : Lunch break is regarded as a break time because it occurs in between two periods of effective labor.

French Sunday working

Sunday is a legal day of rest in France.

However, if an organization (company) is permitted to disregard Sunday rest (a derogation), an employee may be forced to work on Sundays.

There are a number of exceptions that permit work to be scheduled on Sundays.

Sunday work may be required or optional depending on the industry or type of business.

There is 2 types of derogation for French Sunday working :

  1. By the constraints of production & activity of organization : tourism, cultural, sports, health, care or newspapers activities…
  2. By a collective agreement (according your sector of activity) : industrial sector, toursim…etc

People also ask about French work hours :

Do the French have a 35 hour work week?

Yes French have a 35 hour work week since 2000 and the Martine Aubry law of labour under the French Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

35 hours is the legal duration of work in France even if it could have some derogations according your collective agreement, type of working contract…

Which country has a 35 hour work week?

France (since 2000) and other countries have a 35 hours work week, like :

  • France – 1,490 working hours per year per worker (source: OECD)
  • Belgium – 1 493 hours
  • United Kingdom – 1,497 hours
  • Finland – 1,518 hours
  • Sweden – 1,444 hours
  • Austria – 1,442 hours

Official sources : Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – OECD 2021 (

Which country has the lowest working hours?

According OECD, Germany has the lowest working hours with 1,349 workings hours per year per workers in 2021.

Other countries with lowest working hours in the world are :

  • Denmark – 1,363 hours
  • Luxembourg – 1,382 hours
  • Netherlands – 1,416 hours
  • Norway – 1,427 hours
  • Iceland – 1,433 hours
  • Austria – 1,442 hours
  • Sweden – 1,444 hours
  • France – 1,490 hours

Official sources : Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – OECD 2021 (

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