An original organization of working hours in France: “le forfait en jours”
In France, working time regulations may be confusing. Although the legal duration of work is equal to 35 hours per week, exceptions to this rule are numerous.
French Labor Law provides for multiple arrangements, including but not limited to a fixed annual working time in days (“forfait (annuel) en jours”). This type of working time arrangement provides for an employee’s working time to be calculated by the number of days worked per year instead of the number of hours worked per week.
Let’s discuss the main advantages, constraints, and risks of this arrangement.
The main advantage of a “forfait jours” is that the employer does not have to control the working hours. The employer has to check with the employee that he/she respects the mandatory rest periods and that his workload is not excessive.
Therefore, an employee could exceptionally work up to a maximum of 78 hours per week. However, considering health and safety issues and the necessity to respect work/personal life balance, it is strongly advised to ensure that the employee does not regularly exceed the maximum of 48 hours per week.
I — Eligible employees
Employees eligible to a “forfait-jour” arrangement are strictly limited. Indeed, only those who benefit from a genuine autonomy in the organization of their working hours and either whose duties do not require them to follow a collective timetable or whose working hours cannot be predetermined are eligible, pursuant to Article L. 3121-58 of the French Labor Code.
Before enforcing a “forfait-jour” arrangement, it is essential to ensure that the employee has the required autonomy. Failing that, the employee cannot be forced to comply with the “forfait-jour” arrangement and can claim overtime payment for any hours worked in excess of 35 hours per week.
II — Implementation
Implementation of a “forfait-jour” arrangement is subject to two conditions.
1°/ A company collective agreement or an industry wide agreement must expressly authorize the implementation of a “forfait-jour” arrangement. Such agreement must determine the professional categories of employees eligible to the arrangement, as well as the maximum number of days that could be worked and the main characteristics of the arrangement.
In addition, case law requires the agreement to ensure compliance with mandatory daily and weekly rest periods (11 hours per day and 35 hours per week, without interruption). The employer is responsible for ensuring a reasonable workload and must accordingly, regularly follow-up on the organization of work. In this respect, the employer and the employee must meet at least one time every year to discuss the employee’s workload, the organization of work, remuneration, and work/personal life balance.
Unless the collective agreement complies with all the aforementioned conditions, the individual “forfait-jour” arrangement may be canceled and the employee may claim overtime payment.
2°/ The employment contract or an amendment signed with the employee must provide for the application of a “forfait-jour”. Such convention sets out the number of days worked, the remuneration (respecting the minimum defined by the applicable industry wide agreement, if any), as well as the workload control modalities.
It is mandatory to have a monthly monitoring document of the days worked and not worked declared by the employee, also allowing the employer to ensure that the employee complies with his mandatory rest periods.
III — Number of days worked
Determined in the agreement, the number of days worked may not exceed 218 days per year. However, subject to the employer’s agreement, an employee may voluntarily work more than 218 days per year with at least 10% extra pay for the remuneration of the additional days worked (up to 235).
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