Home Working in France Labor Law A guide to French labor laws: employment contracts
Last update on October 22, 2020

Get peace of mind in your new dream job with our guide to employment contracts in France.

What’s the difference between a CDD and CDI? If you’ve just landed your dream job in France, you’ll need to know the difference. To help you out, here’s our guide on the types of French job contracts, from negotiating your contract to terminating employment.

An introduction to French employment contracts

Finding jobs in France is not easy but once someone finds a job it is also important to know some information about the French employment contracts. The French love paperwork and without proper documentation you are powerless. You may have spent 17 years working for Francois Mitterand, but if you don’t have the paperwork to prove it, in the eyes of the French government, it never happened.

This is to say that you are not an employee unless you have a valid contract in French. Some employers will offer their foreign employees a translated version of the official French contract – if yours does then consider it a gift, but also keep in mind that the only document which carries any legal weight is that contract drafted in French.

There are two main types of contract: the CDI, Contract Durée Indeterminée, Are you Looking for a Job in France? Find One Now (open-ended contract) and the CDD, Contract Durée Determinée (fixed-term contract), which has to be drawn up in the cases and under the conditions provided for by the law.

CDD (fixed-term contract)

The CDD may be used to replace an employee who is absent, to cover changes in business activity or for seasonal work (on farms, tourism etc). The maximum term of CDD contracts is, in principle, 18 months. In addition to his remuneration, the employee receives a bonus for insecurity of employment of 10 percent.

Temporary work contract

Other contracts under the same rules as the CDD are the temporary work contract, which depends on the relationship between:

  • the temporary employment agency;
  • the employee;
  • the client using it.

Intermittent contract of employment

This is a contract in a professional sector where business suffers genuine unforeseeable fluctuations throughout the year.

The senior CDD

This is for workers over 57 who want to acquire a sufficient number of years to claim a full pension.

Do note the minimum legal age for employment is 16. However, in some cases, the employment of young people under 16 is possible in family businesses or during school holidays. Minors under 14 (13 on farms) can carry out light work, for apprenticeships, sandwich courses, in performance, or modeling companies.

CDI (open-ended contract)

The French Code of Employment stipulates that some aspects have to be notified in writing to the employee and not necessarily be the subject of a contract:

  • the identity of the parties
  • the place of work
  • the title, grade, nature, or category of the work
  • the date of commencement of the contract
  • the amount of paid leave the employee may claim or, failing that, the procedures for allocating and determining such leave
  • the length of periods of notice
  • information regarding the salary and the frequency of its payment
  • working hours: daily or weekly
  • the collective agreements governing the conditions of employment.

The French Code of Employment also stipulates that a document in writing is necessary for fixed-term contracts, or apprenticeship contracts.

Youth Employment Contracts: Apprenticeshop and professional training

There are special measures to help young people enter the labor market:

  • The apprenticeship contract is for 16–25 year olds who have completed their compulsory schooling and the purpose of which is to obtain a professional qualification. Length: three years. Remuneration: Depending on the age and year of apprenticeship, between 25% and 78% of the minimum wage.
  • The professional training contract is for 16-to-25-year olds without qualifications, or people 26 or over who need professional training. Length: 6 to 21 months – Remuneration: between 55% and 85% of the SMIC (minimum wage).
  • The youth in work contract encourages the recruitment of poorly-qualified or unqualified young people by giving the employer a government grant for three years. This is a full-time or part-time CDI.

Employment for the disabled

Companies with more than 20 employees have the option of paying a contribution proportional to their staff numbers to the Agefiph (National association for the funding of the integration of disabled persons) or taking on 6% of disabled people among their staff.

Salary guarantee

The salary paid to the workers recognised as being disabled must correspond to the job that they are doing and to their qualifications, under general law conditions. The salary paid to them must not be reduced in any way.

In either case, all of your employment benefits should be included and clearly in your contract.

As a salarié, your contract grants you certain rights and your employer will pay your charges sociales. You may then claim a variety of legal benefits including generous unemployment and health insurance. For the first three months of employment, employers have the right to annul your contract. However, you can claim all the benefits that a regular salarié can.

Maternity leave

Maternity leave in France is available to all female employees, allowing six weeks before giving birth and ten weeks afterward. With a third child, mothers can claim eight weeks before birth and 18 weeks afterward. These rights are the same no matter what your position. Fathers can claim 11 consecutive days of paternity leave.

Changing terms of the contract of employment

A distinction should be made between “changes to the conditions of employment” which the employer can decide unilaterally (hours, dates of leave, etc.) and “amendment of the contract of employment” which requires the employee’s agreement and which relates to:

  • the methods of remuneration or the amount thereof
  • the working hours
  • the place of work
  • the employee’s job title,
  • any other information considered necessary by the parties.

An exception to this would be if the employee has agreed to the change in advance, for example a mobility clause or non-completion clause. The employer must notify the employee of the change. Failure to respond on the part of the employee is a tacit agreement.

Termination of a contract

The fixed-term contract (CDD) ends, in principle, when its term is up. The open-ended contract (CDI) can be terminated by the employer or the employee.

There are no formal requirements governing resignation. However, it is preferable to send written notification by registered post with acknowledgment of receipt because the employee must give prior notice, unless it is a trial period.

Redundancy/dismissal

There are three stages to the dismissal procedure for individuals:

  • inviting the worker to a preliminary meeting to enable the parties to explain matters;
  • notification of dismissal (between two working days and one month after the meeting);
  • severance payments are in line with the collective agreement, except in cases of dishonorable discharge.

Redundancy for economic reasons

This is the result of a job ending or changing due to economic difficulties or technological changes. It is subject, under certain conditions, to an obligation to relocate workers and to set up an employment protection plan.

Termination at the end of a CDD

The CDD ends at the end of the contractual period. No prior notice is necessary. An end-of-contract instability of work bonus of 10% of salary is due.

Termination by mutual consent

No specific procedure, but written notice is advisable.

Amicable termination

Amicable termination is a type of termination by mutual consent. In order to be valid, the parties have to follow a procedure during which they discuss and sign a termination agreement which has to be approved by the Departmental Directorate for Labor, Employment and Vocational Training (DDTEFP) or by the labor inspectorate for protected employees (the staff representatives, the works doctor).

Settlement

Settlement is not a form of termination of the contract of employment. It is a contract by which the parties prevent or end a dispute. It involves reciprocal concessions, but the employee cannot receive an amount in compensation that is less than the sums laid down contractually and legally.

Retirement

The legal retirement age is 60. The employee can take his retirement between 60 and 70. From the age of 70, the employer can enforce his rights to retire the employee (as from 2011).

The retirement gratuity is equal to either the minimum legal redundancy pay (1/10 of the monthly wage per year of service; additional 1/15 of monthly wage per year of service beyond 10 years), or the retirement gratuity laid down in the collective agreement or the employment contract, whichever is more favorable.

Labour law

It is famously difficult to fire an employee in France; the French worker receives protection on all sides. All dismissals must follow very strict procedures and an employer must request a meeting (in writing) with the employee in question, and the employee has the right to have a co-worker or union rep present during the meeting. The dismissal itself must be executed with a written document which explains precisely the legal reasons for the firing.

If you are fired, you are entitled to severance pay, payment of time worked until your last day worked and any due holiday pay. Depending upon many factors, such as your position at the company, the reason for being fired, and the level of goodwill that exists between the two parties involved, the conditions can change dramatically. French labor law is more complex than you can imagine; if you suspect you’re going to be fired, find a solicitor.