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Faire le pont: When are France’s four-day weekends possible?

We explain the idea of ‘bridge’ days, in which workers can take one strategic day off work to get a longer holiday

The French phrase ‘faire le pont’ does not literally refer to making a bridge Pic: eelnosiva / Shutterstock

This week is the first chance this year for workers in France to take an extra long weekend by taking a day off on a ‘bridge’ day (faire le pont).

Thursday (May 26) is Ascension Day and is a public holiday in France. It means that if workers take the Friday off, they will get a four-day break. 

Read more: Ascension Day holiday: prepare for heavy traffic on French roads

In French you can say ‘faire le pont’ to mean taking a ‘bridge’ day off work to make a longer weekend. 

This phenomenon is possible in France because public holiday days (jours fériés) are taken on the actual day on which they fall, as opposed to the practice seen in other countries, such as the UK, where they are often moved to the closest Monday. 

Taking a bridge day is popular in France with workers often taking the chance to have a longer break. 

It will be possible to faire le pont on two other occasions this year, for the Fête nationale on Thursday, July 14 and All Saints’ Day (Toussaint) on Tuesday, November 1. 

There are 11 public holidays in France, but (unfortunately for workers) this year four of them fall on a weekend day:
New Year’s Day on a Saturday (January 1), la fête du Travail (Labour Day) on a Sunday (May 1), VE Day on a Sunday (May 8) and Christmas, also on a Sunday (December 25).

Companies in France can choose to give their employees an extra day off in lieu of the lost public holiday in cases like this, but they are under no obligation to do so. 

Three French departments – Moselle, Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin – have an extra two public holidays on Good Friday (April 15) and Saint-Etienne's (December 26). 

The reason is down to local laws whose origins date to the annexation of Alsace and the current Moselle (as Alsace-Lorraine was then called) by the German Empire at the end of the 1870 war. 

Read more: No bank transfers for four days due to France’s mixed holiday set-up

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