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The Complete Guide to Employment Law in France

Key Takeaways

1.  Employees in France are afforded good legal protections when it comes to mandated employment benefits and entitlements.

2. There are four types of employment contracts that exist in France. These include a CDI or permanent contract, a CDD or fixed term contract, a professional or apprenticeship contract and a single term contract. Which contract to enforce will depend on the nature and term of employment that is sought by an employer in an employee.

3. The Labor Code and Collective Bargain Agreements (CBA) act as important legal sources that employers need to be aware of and must be referred to when writing up an employment contract in France.

4. The national minimum wage in France as of January 2022 is EUR1,603.12. All employees working under French jurisdiction are entitled to make at least this base salary. There are also other arrangements for minimum wage baselines that vary by industry and are contained in sectorial-specific CBAs.

5.  A global PEO can help you hire employees in France quickly, while taking care of all compliance obligations that are required by employment law in France.

Note: This guide contains general information only. For legal advice specific to your situation, please consult a professional. 

Employment law in France (French labor law) has historically favored provisions that protect the employment rights of workers in France. These days, even though reforms are frequent, new employment laws are generally directed toward finding ways to give greater freedom, equality and security to employees under French jurisdiction.

For companies looking to hire in France, it is important to know your obligations so you can meet all requirements set out under French labor law. This article will act as a guide for the conditions and employee protections that employers must provide when hiring employees in France.

Employment contracts in France

There are several legal instruments that dictate what conditions are expected as minimum requirements in any employment relationship in France. These sources are:

  • the French Constitution
  • EU law
  • case law
  • the Labor code
  • CBAs
  • company agreements
  • internal company policy, regulation, and practices.

The two most important instruments that employers should be aware of are the French Labor Code and Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs). Both these sources provide different requirements and mandatory protections to employees.

The French Labor Code

In the Labor code or the code du travail, is the key piece of legislation that governs and stipulates all laws, regulations and decrees surrounding employment conditions that employers, employees, and contractors are dictated by.

Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA)

In France, CBAs are collective agreements that take place at the national, industry and company level to negotiate specific employment conditions for employees. There are broken down into 3 blocks of issues. We consider each in turn. 

The first block of issues are negotiated at the national and industry level and take precedence over any company-level agreements. The issues that fall under this block include minimum salaries, job classifications, health insurance, overtime rates, part-time work minimums, probation period timeframes, rules on temporary employment, issues of workplace equality and night working conditions.

The second block of issues, where industry-level negotiations still take legal precedence over company collective agreements, includes workplace health and safety, trade union representation, employment of disabled workers, and high risk and dangerous work supplements.

In recent years though, there are now instances where companies have a right to make company-specific agreements that have precedence and do not need to take reference from sectorial-specific CBAs. The Issues in this third block include bonuses, paid holiday, work time, notice periods, travel pay, dismissal compensation, and the initial probation period.

Company specific agreements can always take precedence over national and industry standards if more favorable for the employee. 

Types of Employment contracts

There is not one standard type of contract in France. However, there are four types of employment contracts based around the nature and term of employment a company seeks to hire an employee. These include:

1. Permanent Contract  (Contract Duration Indeterminée (CDI))

CDI contracts are the most common type of employment contract that exists in France. If this form of contact is agreed upon between employer and employee, the terms of employment will be indefinite with no end date and subject to any mandated labor Laws, and CBA’s where applicable. Full-time CDI contracts can be verbal agreements, written in French or English. Part-time contracts always must be in writing.

2. Fixed Term Contact (Contract Duration Determinée” (CDD))

As the name suggests, these are considered fixed or temporary term contracts and are only able to be enacted in exceptional circumstances (for general information about these contracts check out our guide, ‘Indefinite Contract vs Fixed Term‘).  They are organized by an employer to fulfil a specific task with a determined end date, or for other reasons authorized by employment law in France. Some reasons include seasonal workers, temporary growth of the company, or replacement of an absent employee. CDD contracts must be written in French and signed by the employer and employee.

3. Apprenticeship or Professionalization Contract

Employment contracts of this type must be in written form stipulating terms of training and terms of employment activity. These types of contracts have the objective for an employee to obtain a professional certification.

4. Single integration contract

Single integration contracts are for employers to receive financial aid and facilitate employment to individuals who have difficulty in finding employment allowing them to have temporary professional integration, and provide further opportunities in the future.

Minimum employee entitlements through employment law in France

If you are seeking to hire employees In France, there are several employee entitlements that are stipulated under the Labor Code and the applicable CBA to be provided by prospective employers. These include:

  • The national minimum wage
  • Maximum working week hours
  • National holidays and holiday leave
  • Overtime pay
  • A safe and healthy workplace
  • A workplace free from discrimination and harassment
  • Termination rights and period of notice

There are other certain mandated benefits that employers, employees, and the French government all contribute to in different capacities. These benefits include:

  • Paid leave due to illness
  • Maternity leave
  • Adoption leave
  • Paternity leave
  • Death insurance
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Pension fund

These entitlements are for any employee with an ordinary permanent contract or full-time fixed-term contract. However, temporary workers are also entitled to paid leave, holiday pay, minimum wage, and have some termination protections. You can read more about these in our Employer’s Guide to Employee Benefits in France

Minimum wage in France

As of January 2022, the national monthly minimum wage in France stands at EUR1,603.12 for a 35-hour working week. This standard is entitled only to employees employed under a permanent or fixed-term contract. The minimum wage can be higher if an industry-specific CBA exists. For example, a collective agreement made in the Metallurgy sector stipulates a minimum wage of 2,083.17 euros (gross)/month as of 2021 for a management employee and is subject to renegotiation annually.

Pension and healthcare contributions in France

Pension and healthcare contributions are part of the French Social security system or the Securite Sociale.

The French healthcare system is primarily funded by the French government, but employees and employers also contribute via payroll taxes. Employers are required to pay 80% contribution from the payable tax, while employees contribute the other 20%.

The French Pension scheme or the Retraite De Base requires employees to make minimum contributions to their pension fund that will be accessible if certain conditions are met once of legal retirement age. There is also two other contribution schemes that employees can take on to boost their pensions, including a compulsory supplementary contribution and voluntary private pension funds.

Horizons can ensure compliance with employment law in France

France tends to provide good protection for all employees working under French jurisdiction. However, these protections are supported by an array of legal instruments that can appear overwhelming to follow for those who are unfamiliar with employment law in France.

Horizons, a Leading Global PEO, can help support you when hiring employees in France and ensure that you can meet all employment obligations required under French labor law.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Employees in France are entitled to a dismissal notice period, which will depend on how long an employee has worked for a company and grounds for termination.  

Dismissal notice periods range:

  • 6-24 months employment require 1 month notice period
  • 24+ months of employment require 2 month’s notice period
  • Over 6 months will be based on applicable industry CBA and company agreement.

Employees are entitled to be paid during their notice period and may also be entitled to redundancy and dismissal pay in certain circumstances. These entitlements will align with applicable industry CBA’s.

It is possible for employees to be fired in France but there are certain laws that employers must follow to ensure the dismissal is not considered unfair. Reasons for dismissal must be based on real and serious personal or economic grounds.

There are only very few exceptions that allow an employer to terminate an employee employed on a permanent contract such as gross misconduct, negligence or incapacity cases.

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