Can firm insist that I work a bank holiday in France?

My employer told me to work November 1, a bank holiday. Is this legal? F.F.

26 September 2018
By Oliver Rowland

Yes, this is legal. The only bank holiday which must be given as a day off is May 1, paradoxically known as la Fête du Travail (Labour Day). It celebrates achievements in worker rights over the years, such as maximum weekly hours or paid holidays and is obligatoirement chômé (taken off, as a matter of obligation).

Other French bank holidays, including November 1 (All Saints’ Day) are considered ‘ordinary’ holidays, which are usually taken off, but do not have to be.

When a bank holiday is worked, there is no legal requirement for extra pay or a day in lieu, although in some cases a work contract or convention collective (working conditions regulations for the sector of work) may stipulate otherwise –for example the regulations for people who work in clothing shops state they should get double pay if they work a bank holiday.

The regulations may also stipulate a set number of bank holidays that must be given off per year, at the employer’s discretion to decide which, or they may limit the number of bank holidays which may be worked in a given year.

The main exception to the general rule is in three departments of the Grand Est, Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin and Moselle, where bank holidays must be given off apart from in certain sectors, such as hotel and restaurant work.

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