Labour law in France protects employees from the start of their work relationship, throughout the duration of the work contract and up to its termination.
French labour law tends to be more employee-friendly than employer-friendly. In France, legislation applicable to the employment relationship between the employer and employee is essentially set out in the French Code du Travail (Labour Code) and various collective agreements. In the event of legal dispute, French case law is predominantly decisive. There are big differences between decisions handed down in the individual labour courts (the Conseils de Prud’Hommes).
In France, the Labour Inspectorate is responsible for ensuring compliance with labour law provisions within and outside the workplace (e.g. construction sites).
Employment contracts in France: CDI and CDD
Under French labour law there are different employment contracts. French law sets out for permanent employment contracts (CDI), fixed-term employment contracts under certain conditions (CDD) as well as temporary employment contracts. Furthermore, in certain areas of activity, project contracts can be entered into that end after the completion of the project for which they were executed without the premium of 10% payable as for the termination of a CDD (e.g. in the case of construction contracts after acceptance of the building).
CDD – the fixed-term contract in France
The French CDD – Contrat à Durée Déterminée is a fixed-term employment contract. As the name suggests, its duration is limited in time. Its limited duration must be explicitly mentioned in the employment contract, as well as all other mandatory special provisions. The legal possibilities to sign a CDD are strictly limited and binding under French labour law.
A CDD that continues after termination automatically becomes a CDI. Caution should therefore be placed when formally confirming the termination of the CDD in France.
CDI – the permanent employment contract in France
The French CDI – Contrat à Durée Indéterminée is an unlimited employment contract. Its duration is unlimited. A CDI can only be ended via a mutual agreement or after a dismissal procedure.In France, the CDI is the normal contractual employment relationship under Article L1221-2 of the Labour Code. The rights and obligations under the CDI are set out in French labour law.
Working Hours in France
In addition to employment contracts, French Labour Code also regulates working hours. It is mandatory to comply with these provisions or to draft lump-sum employment contracts for employees in manager positions. In an ongoing employment relationship, care must be taken not to exceed the number of hours, as the employer has a duty of care for his employees.
According to French law on working hours, it is forbidden to have an employee work more than 6 consecutive days per week. In principle, working on Sunday is prohibited. In some cases, however, Sunday rest is not possible. In such cases, the day of rest can either be postponed to a day other than Sunday or shortened under certain conditions, which vary depending on the legal exceptions.
Weekly working hours are at least 35 hours per week. However, exceptions can be made to this rule, such as 39-hour week contracts, as well as flat-rate employment contracts for senior employees where no overtime is paid – these are arguably more the rule than the exception.
Every worker is entitled to at least two and a half working days of paid leave per month and per year (i.e. five weeks after one year of service). Certain employee absences are taken into account when calculating days of leave. Certain collective agreements, the employment contract or an employment custom may provide for a holiday duration that is more favourable to the employee than the legal duration.
Dismissals in France
In France, there must be a compelling reason for an employee to be dismissed based on personal or economic reasons. In addition to the reasons for dismissal, a strict dismissal procedure must also be respected. In addition to the notice period in France, the employee must be invited to a termination meeting in due time.
The termination letter must also state the reasons for termination. In addition to the classic dismissal, there is the alternative possibility of terminating the employment relationship by mutual agreement under a termination agreement.
Collective dismissals in France are also extremely formal and the applicable procedure depends on the number of workers to be dismissed and the size of the company.
Conclusion: French labour law
Under French labour law, mandatory provisions must be set out in the employment contract, that can be drawn up for a fixed term, an indefinite term or for a limited period. Working hours are regulated by the French legal provisions. It is important to be aware of basic requirements of French labour law, even in the case of secondment. For example, pay must not be below the minimum wage (so-called SMIC) and the 35-hour week must be respected. In case of termination, attention must be paid to the applicable procedure (notice or termination agreement), the French mandatory notice period and the amount of severance pay. French labour law is rather employee-friendly.
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Alaris specialises in French employment law and also assists you with all international employment law questions. We advise you on:
- French employment contracts
- labour law sanctions (labour inspector)
- termination agreements
- secondments etc.
We represent you in collective labour law (works council rights, works council elections, collective bargaining agreements, etc.) in an advisory capacity and/or in court.
In difficult, demanding international legal disputes, you will benefit from our extensive experience. Alaris is familiar with labour law litigation and settlement proceedings before French labour courts and will accompany you through labour inspections in France.
The aim of Alaris law firm is to provide each and every client with full legal and practical support – in all areas of individual and collective French and international labour and social law.
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