A French employment contract comes into effect from the time from which an employee performs a service in return for payment for an employer with which a relationship of subordination exists. In the majority of cases, it is necessary by law that the contract is drawn up in writing (z.B. fixed-term employment contract, part-time employment contract, apprenticeship contract, resettlement contract, etc.). Only a permanent contract in France (contrat à durée indéterminée) can be made verbally and/or tacitly. But written confirmation of the contract must also be given in these cases as a minimum.
The French employer can in principle be any natural or legal person. In the latter case, the employer must be legally represented by an authorized person. The power of attorney can be provided tacitly (Cour de Cassation (Court of Cassation), judgment of December 15, 2010). Anyone can be a French employer in principle. In some cases, however, the consent of the legal representative is required (e.g. in the case of minors and people who are under guardianship). Minors under the age of 16 may not work as employees (exceptions exist in the case of modeling work, apprenticeship contracts from the age of 15, and holiday jobs from the age of 14). In this case, special conditions (e.g. work hours) have to be observed by the employer.
In principle, the French employment contract must also be written in French in accordance with article L. 1221-3 of the Code du Travail (French Labor Code). According to this, even an English expression (e.g. senior account manager) should be translated into French. Should the employee be a foreigner, they can also request that the contract be translated into their mother tongue. This rule also applies in accordance with article L. 1321-6 of the Code du Travail for all other documents (e.g. work rules) that are directly connected with the execution of the employment relationship, even if the company in France is a subsidiary of a foreign company.
There are important exceptions from this, however, if:
- the employee is a foreign worker and the employment contract has been written in their mother tongue;
- the documents come from abroad; or
- in the case of documents in a foreign language (e.g. technical documents) where it can necessarily be expected on account of international practice that the employee has a good command of English (Cour de Cassation, judgment of June 12, 2012).
This has recently been confirmed once again by a ruling of the Cour de Cassation of June 24, 2015.
Should the employer wish to agree a probationary period, this must necessarily be recorded in writing in the employment contract (or in the “lettre d’engagement” – appointment letter). Otherwise the probationary period is dispensed with.
With regard to the design of the other contents of employment contracts in France, it is mandatory that the minimum regulations contained in the French Labor Code are included in the employment contract. The contractual provisions of the employment contracts may furthermore not be in breach of the “ordre public” (public order) principle (e.g. payment less than the minimum wage).
This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice addressed to particular circumstances. You should not take or refrain from taking any legal action based upon the information contained herein without first seeking professional, individualized counsel based upon your own circumstances. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements.
Information by ALARIS AVOCATS