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French labor laws

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

It may be quite difficult to start a new work while also attempting to comprehend the French labor regulations. What follows is information that is essential to your employment in France.


French labor laws provide robust and long-standing protection for employees in a variety of areas, including negotiating employment contracts, maternity leave, unions, and retirement benefits. The standard workweek in France is just 35 hours, and the minimum payment is far greater than the average. Having said that, it is essential to be aware of both your rights and your duties. As part of this introduction to the laws governing employment in France, we will discuss a wide range of topics, from discrimination and terminations to training and advancement.


Introduction to French labor law


Individuals, corporations, and labor unions are each given their own set of rights and obligations according to the French Labor Code. Protections afforded to workers in France are comprehensive and quite strong. For instance, companies in France have a more difficult time terminating their workers than their counterparts in many other nations. Additionally, in 2017, France passed a requirement known as the "right to disconnect," which gives workers the legal freedom to ignore business contact received outside of normal working hours.


Before beginning work in France, it is imperative that you thoroughly review any employment contract that you will be signing, just as it is in any other nation. This is the ideal location to get an overview of your specific circumstances, and it will also better prepare you for what to anticipate from your new work. You must maintain copies of every employment contract that you sign, in addition to any other papers associated with the job that you may sign.


Foreign workers – your right to work in France


Your citizenship will have a significant impact on the extent to which you are permitted to work in France, as is the case throughout the majority of the European Union. Because of the two-tiered structure, if you are a citizen of the EU you will have very few difficulties finding a job in France. This holds for nationals of nations that are members of the European Economic Area as well as the European Free Trade Area (EEA/EFTA). If you are not, however, you will be required to get a work permit.


Because the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union in 2021, the people of the United Kingdom need to get a work permit to lawfully work in France. It is important to note that British residents who had been residing in France previous to January 1, 2021, did not lose their ability to continue living and working in the country after the change in residency laws took effect. However, beginning on January 1, 2021, all British citizens who want to work in France will be required to apply for a work visa. In addition, from October 1, 2021, those with British citizenship who desire to dwell in France for more than three months will be required to acquire a valid residence visa.


If you are not a citizen of the EU, EEA, or EFTA, your best bet is to look for a job with a company that is ready to sponsor your visa application. After then, the paperwork for the residence permit will be handled by your company. This may not be the only way to get a work permit; nonetheless, it is the method that is the least complicated.


Employment contracts in France


Because employment contracts in France might be difficult to understand, you must do your homework and familiarise yourself with your rights. Always be sure you have a written contract, and then thoroughly go through it. Before you sign it, make sure all of your questions are answered. You have the option to have your employment contract translated into the language of your choosing, but the French version will continue to be the version of the contract that is legally recognized in the event of any problems.


It is important to keep in mind that if you are not a citizen of a nation that is a member of the EU or EEA, you may only be eligible for certain types of work contracts.


Fixed-term contract (contrat de travail à durée déterminée – CDD)


The beginning and ending dates of fixed-term contracts are always made clear to the parties. In most cases, the longest possible duration is 18 months. Under some conditions, this period may be extended up to 24 months. Written agreements are required for fixed-term contracts. It is important to keep in mind that the contract cannot be terminated early by any party unless there is a valid basis for doing so or both parties agree to do so.


Permanent work contract (contrat de travail à durée indéterminée – CDI)


Permanent employment contracts are commitments to labor for an unspecified amount of time during the contract. They may be either part-time or full-time, and the contract will often include the terms as well as the hours they are required to work. If you are currently employed and wish to leave your job, you are required to hand in the proper amount of notice. Your contract will specify the amount of time you have to provide notice. In a similar vein, an employer is required to adhere to termination procedures. To put it another way, if they want to fire you, they have to provide evidence that supports their decision to do so.


Collective bargaining agreements


There are collective bargaining agreements in place in a variety of sectors in France. As a direct consequence of this, some aspects of your employment or contract may be impacted. This may include trial periods or specific methods for ending employment. Therefore, make sure you conduct the necessary study and are aware of your rights within your sector.


Trial period


At the commencement of a new employment arrangement, a probationary term may be imposed by some employers. This provides the employee and the employer with the opportunity to determine whether or not they are a good match for one another. During the trial period, an employer is free to fire an employee for any reason and is not required to follow the procedures typically associated with terminating personnel. When it comes to indefinite contracts, the probationary periods might last anywhere from two to four months. When it comes to contracts with a set period, the answer will depend on how long the term is. However, there is a possibility of a one-month delay for contracts lasting six months or more.


Wages and salary in France


The hourly minimum wage in France is rather high, having been established at €10.25 as of the first of January 2021. Using a 35-hour workweek as a basis, this comes out to a monthly wage of €1,554.58. Bear in mind that this is the very minimum required of individuals working in professional capacities. Younger people or apprentices may make less money. Your income will most likely be sent to you every month. If you work overtime, French law requires that you be paid a premium of 25% on top of your regular rate of pay for the first eight extra hours of overtime that you put in. This is in addition to the standard rate of compensation that you get. A premium of an extra fifty percent is added to the pay for overtime worked more than specified hours.


Work hours in France


By the laws governing labor in France, the typical workweek in France consists of 35 hours. Nevertheless, this may change depending on the sector, and it is also subject to any collective bargaining agreements that may be in place. After this point, further time worked is deemed overtime and should be reimbursed accordingly. In the course of your employment, you are entitled to a minimum of a 20-minute break for every six hours that you are on the clock.


Your employment contract will, of course, include all of the exact terms and conditions that apply to your job. This includes things like decreased hours, flexible schedules, or even sabbaticals in certain cases. You should inquire about this matter by having a conversation with a member of your organization.


Night work in France


Night labor in France is considered to be any job performed between the hours of 21.00 and 06.00, and it is not allowed to, in theory, exceed eight hours per day or 40 hours per week (44 hours if governed by decree or collective agreement). Employees are also entitled to weekly rest days or additional compensation for working at night.


If they so choose, pregnant women who work nights should be given the option to switch to daytime shifts for the whole of their pregnancies and throughout the authorized postnatal leave period.


Paid and unpaid leave in France


Annual leave in France


According to the laws governing employment in France, full-time workers who put in a minimum of 35 hours per week are eligible for a minimum of five weeks of paid leave every year. This accrues at a rate of 2.5 days off for every calendar month that is worked, up to a maximum of 30 days off each year of service. You are not allowed to take more than 24 days of annual leave in a row without your employer's permission unless another arrangement has been made. This is about equivalent to the span of four weeks. If you work less than 35 hours per week, you should probably give some thought to taking advantage of the pro-rata arrangement that governs your annual leave entitlement.


In contrast to most other nations, yearly leave entitlement in France is determined using the period beginning on June 1 and ending on May 31. In most cases, you will not be allowed to carry over any unused annual leave into the next year. According to French labor rules, companies are required to provide their employees the opportunity to take a vacation between May 1 and October 31. In exchange, workers are required to take a total of 12 consecutive days off during this time for yearly leave. Your employer will decide whether or not you are permitted to take vacation time beyond these days if you request it. If you are unsure about anything, you should check it out first before making any trip arrangements or bookings.


In addition, France observes eleven national public holidays during the year, in addition to two more holidays that are exclusive to the regions of Alsace and Lorraine. Only May 1st, International Workers' Day, is a holiday that must be observed by everyone. On the other hand, if you do work on this day, you will most likely get double the money for the labor you complete.


Maternity/paternity leave in France


Expectant moms are required to take maternity leave for a period ranging from eight to sixteen weeks. Your amount of time off work during pregnancy is increased if you are expecting more than one kid or if your pregnancy is considered high-risk. Your maternity leaves entitlement increases to 26 weeks if you already have two dependent children at home when you get pregnant with a third child. If you are expecting twins, you will get an additional 14 weeks of maternity leave, and if you are expecting triplets, you will receive an additional 26 weeks of leave.


The good news for expecting dads is that the length of paternity leave will expand from 14 days to 28 days beginning in 2021. This amount of time off increases to 32 days if there are multiple deliveries. Keep in mind that your company will pay for three of the days that you are out on leave and that the other days will be paid by social security.


As a result of this, after you go on leave, you will get an amount equal to the median of your wage for the three months before the birth of your child. The maximum amount that may be deducted from social security each quarter is this.


Sick pay in France


If you fall ill while living in France, your sick pay will be provided by the country's social security system rather than your employer. If you have a letter from your doctor stating that you are unwell, you are eligible to get sick pay beginning on the fourth day that you are off from work. After then, you will begin to get up to fifty percent of the daily pay that you have been earning over the preceding three months. You are eligible to keep earning this decreased salary for up to three years from this point forward.


Other forms of paid leave in France


The French labor law provides for a variety of additional forms and periods of paid leave, including the following:


a celebration of your wedding, the wedding of your kid, or a civil union


grieving the loss of a beloved kid, spouse or partner, or other close family or friend


a period of time off if a kid develops a handicap.


up to three months of paid leave to care for a sick family member, close friend, or other loved one.


Leave without rémunération in France


To deal with the difficulties of life, you could need unpaid family leaves. This is permitted under the labor legislation of France. You may take an unpaid vacation if you are:


providing care for a kid or relative who is handicapped, gravely wounded, or has a terminal illness


acquiring a kid via international adoption


doing out humanitarian efforts in other countries


establishing a new enterprise


taking a sabbatical (typically between six and 11 months)


You must have a conversation with your employer before taking any kind of absence that is unpaid. They will be able to provide you with a comprehensive explanation of your choices.


Parental rights in France


You are not allowed to be fired from your job while you are pregnant, while you are on maternity leave, or in the first ten weeks after you have returned to work. Women who are pregnant are not allowed to work the night shift. Breastfeeding is allowed at work in France for up to an hour a day for the first year after a baby is born, according to the country's labor code. However, the percentage of mothers who breastfeed their children is extremely low, and the act itself is seen as a matter of personal preference.


Social security and tax in France


Once you begin living and working in France, you will almost immediately be required to enroll in France's system of national security. This includes benefits for those who are ill, parents, and other family members, as well as pension and unemployment programs. Your employer will take care of setting up your social security deductions so that they are taken out of your paycheck before you get it. Fortunately, your employer will also contribute to the program on your behalf in addition to making their contribution.


Protection at work against various forms of discrimination in France


According to the French labor law, discrimination is not only prohibited in the working environment, but also throughout the hiring process. This includes, but is not limited to, discrimination based on factors such as color, sexual orientation, religious views, handicap, and membership in a trade union. This encompasses both overt and covert forms of prejudice, as well as unwanted sexual attention. All of them may result in large penalties and perhaps time spent in prison depending on the severity of the offense.


If you want to file a claim of discrimination, the first step you need to do is to investigate the several channels via which your employer might resolve your complaints. If this is unsuccessful, you have the option of bringing your case to the national organization known as The Defender of Rights (el Défenseur des droits).


Joining a union in France


Although trade unions in France are thriving, only approximately 11% of the country's workforce is represented by one. Having said that, labor federations have a significant amount of influence when it comes to the formulation of political agendas, the conduct of collective bargaining, and, in more recent times, the initiation of strike actions.


The right to go on strike is protected by the French Constitution; nevertheless, many employees in the public sector are prohibited from exercising this right.


Concerning occupational health and safety in France


Workers in France are guaranteed the right to a working environment that is both safe and healthful. Together with other relevant institutions, the Ministry of Labor (French: Ministère du Travail, de l'Emploi et de l'Insertion) is responsibility for developing and putting into practice the policies governing occupational health. If you have a concern about the level of safety at your place of employment, the first step in resolving it should be to follow the procedures that have been established. If you are still not happy with the answers you have received, you may talk to someone in the Ministry of Labor.


The government has also outlined the duties that employers have in the workplace regarding Covid-19 during the epidemic.


Training and development in France


Over the last several years, France has instituted a statewide program of training and development throughout the country. You have the right, if you are an employee in the private sector, to get credits for continuing education from your employer of up to €5,000 per year. It is interesting to note that each person is responsible for their credits. Therefore, even if you quit your present employment, you will still be able to keep your credits. A user account for online training is required to access this program.


France's procedure for ending a previous employment connection


Dismissal


To properly terminate an employee in France who has an open-ended contract, several procedures must be followed. To begin, a potential employer has to have good reasons. For this, you might use either personal reasons or economic considerations as your justification. Poor conduct or performance on the part of the employee might qualify as a personal basis for termination. The economic arguments center on the company's ongoing struggles to meet its financial obligations.


In either scenario, the employer is required to provide notice. The amount of time an employee has spent working for the company, the specifics of the employment contract, and any applicable collective bargaining agreements all play a role in determining the duration of the notice period. Instead of honoring the notice period, an employer has the option of choosing to give the employee an indemnification instead. An employee has 15 calendar days from the day they received their notice of dismissal to file a challenge to the termination of their employment. The Industrial Tribunal, often known as the "Conseil de prud'hommes" or "CPH," will decide whether or not the firing was justified.


Leaving a job willingly


If you choose to resign from your employment, the procedure to follow is determined by the kind of contract you are under, but there are no universally accepted criteria to adhere to. To determine the conditions under which your employment contract may be terminated, you should begin by reading it again. It is recommended that you hand in a resignation letter to your employer and provide the amount of notice that is specified in your employment agreement. Your employer will most likely provide a written response to recognizing the stipulations of the contract termination. You need to retain this in your records.


Redundancy


Because French labor law is so complicated, the process of firing employees may be very time consuming and expensive for businesses. Your employment contract will include the notice period and the conditions for redundancies, both of which are determined by the length of time you have been employed.


If you have an open-ended contract with an employee, the labor law has defined minimal severance payments depending on the person's monthly income before the termination of their employment. Bear in mind that the particular firm you work for could provide much more than this. These are the bare minimal requirements:


If you have up to ten years of experience working for your organization, the following applies to you: A bonus equal to 25% of your gross monthly income, multiplied by the number of years you have been with the company.


If you have worked for the firm for 11 years or more, your seniority bonus will be equal to 33.33 percent of your gross monthly income multiplied by the number of years you have been there.


Retirement


In France, the minimum age to retire is 62 years old; however, if you were born before July 1, 1951, you may retire at the age of 60. An early retirement is an option for certain individuals, such as those who suffer from impairments or injuries sustained on the job. If you have reached the age of retirement but you still wish to work, you can do so. An additional incentive is a pension boost that occurs every quarter. Read our guide to the French pension system if you want to learn more about how your finances will change when you retire.


Consolidations and bankruptcies of companies in France


If your firm is involved in a merger or acquisition with another business, you may find yourself working for the new business. Depending on the size of the firm that is engaged, a social and economic committee will be informed of any changes to the organization that may have legal or economic implications. You may anticipate receiving updates on any relevant changes. Nevertheless, businesses are not obligated to get employee approval before making significant organizational changes.


However, distinct consideration must be given to each contract. If your new employer wishes to amend the terms of your contract, you should thus consult with a labor and employment lawyer.


Workers in France who are employed on a contractual, part-time, agency, or informal basis


Temporary and part-time labor is commonplace in France, just as they are in many other countries and regions. To begin, check that you have read your employment contract to have a complete understanding of your responsibilities and rights.


Second, if you are not a resident of the EU or EEA, you should be aware that finding employment that is either temporary or part-time may be difficult for you to do. This is because the majority of the time, your residence permit will be linked to your work, which will often be full-time.


Making a complaint as a worker in France


If you have a grievance with the circumstances of your workplace, the way you are treated, or your employer, the first thing you should do is get in touch with the appropriate department within your firm. They will direct you in the appropriate actions to take and provide advice. On the other hand, if this does not fulfill your requirements, you can consider bringing it up with a trade union, provided that you are a member of one. In any other case, you need to get in touch with the Industrial Tribunal (CPH), which will be able to provide you with information on your alternatives.


Useful resources


● Cleiss.fr is a website that offers helpful advice and contact information on social security.

● The French Ministry of Labor is the place to go for information on the country's labor laws.

● The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) is a resource that provides information to health and safety organizations.

● Hello, and welcome to France! Here you can find current information in both English and French on a wide variety of topics.


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