The decisions issued by the French High Court overruled the established case law on paid leave accrual to bring France into compliance with European legislation. The European Court of Justice ruled that previous case law on French Labor Code provisions was in breach of European law, as employees are entitled to at least four weeks of paid leave, regardless of whether they are absent from work or not. All EU countries must comply with European legislation and European Court of Justice rulings.
The three main changes to leave as a result of the decisions are as follows:
As a result of the decisions, employees who are absent from work on sick leave will be entitled to continue to accrue paid leaves.
Employees who are absent from work due to an occupational accident or illness have been entitled to accrue paid leave during their time off for a maximum period of one year. The French High Court rulings eliminated the maximum one-year period for accrual, allowing employees to continue to accrue leave.
Finally, the current three-year limitation to claim back pay for accrued paid time off when an employee is on leave due to a personal or an occupational illness or accident may only be applied where the employer has proper policies and procedures in place which enable their employees to exercise this right. In the absence of proof of such measures or policies, all current and former employees who have been absent from work due to a personal or occupational illness or accident are entitled to claim regularization back pay for accrued leave entitlements which would have otherwise expired.
Employers should review the changes and ensure compliance by amending their internal HR leave policies and practices, employment agreements and company-level collective bargaining agreements as needed.
Employers should also review leave accrual for any employee on a personal or occupational sickness or accident leave since 13 September 2023. Employers should review their policies and procedures to determine whether employees (current and former) may not have had the opportunity to effectively exercise their right to claim back pay for leave accrued while absent due to personal or occupational illness or accident. If found, employers should determine their potential liabilities, as well as any payments or accruals due to employees as a result of the unlimited expansion of the right to claim back pay for time off that would have been accrued during an absence. Employers are encouraged to establish policies and procedures to ensure that employees can adequately exercise their right to claim back pay for accrued leave and maintain the three-year limitation.