Can I have holidays in the first year of my contract?

My mother, British and aged 51, has just been offered a permanent job in France (CDI), which is great. However, she has been told she is not entitled to any paid holiday for the first 12 months of employment. She is expected to work all 52 weeks of the year. Is this legal? Is there not an EU law that prevents this? Have other people experienced the same?  H.T.

Thank you for your question and congratulations to your mother for her CDI.

It is absolutely normal for the employer to ask her to work all 52 weeks of the year in the first year of her CDI (contrat à durée indéterminée, a permanent contract).

Everyone is entitled to five weeks of holidays per year but you have to earn your days. You accrue 2.5 days of paid holiday every month and 30 days (five weeks) in a year.

You have to work at least two months to take a first week of holiday. It used to be forbidden to have holidays in the first year but since 2016 and the application of the El Khomri law you can take your days off before the end of the year if your employer agrees (however they are not obliged to agree).

The French holiday calendar is also different as it runs from June 1 to May 31. If you start in January you will be able to ask for holidays in your first year. However, some companies’ calendars can be different. For example, companies working in the building or entertainment industries have a calendar which starts on April 1 and ends on March 31. It will still allow you to have holidays after March 31 if you started in January.

Then, if you work more than the legal hours (35 hours) and your company has a special convention where they apply a forfait jour, you will be entitled to RTT. For example, if you work 39 hours in a week you will then have some days off which will be paid. Usually, employees who follow the forfait jour must not work more than 218 days per year.

If you do not take any holiday in the first year, you do not lose the days - you will be able to take them in the following year. You will also be entitled to bank holidays when you do not have to work (April 22, May 1, May 8, May 30, July 14, August 15, November 1, November 11…).

In France, the most common types of contract are CDI and CDD (contrat à durée déterminée, a fixed-term contract). Both of them allow you to have 2.5 days of holiday every month. If the CDD comes to an end before you have taken any holidays, the company will pay you for these days.

Unpaid holiday (congé sans solde) can be taken but is quite different since it is not regulated by the law. The best solution is to see with your employer what the conditions are. Your contract and your salary are suspended while on congé sans solde.

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