How to Master French Labor Law in 2024

Master French Labor Law in 2024

Master French Labor Law in 2024

March 4, 2024


Picture of INS Global



Picture of INS Global



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Key Takeaways

  1. The Code du Travail (or Labor Code) governs and regulates the majority of French labor laws.
  2. Contracts and CBA minimums trump national laws when they are preferential to the worker in France
  3. An EOR in France can be the perfect way to expand to France without the hassles and dangers of employing locally-based workers directly


Expanding into France offers numerous advantages, including its robust economy, EU membership, and innovation hubs. However, the country’s reputation for complex regulatory environments and strict French labor laws, which provide workers with high levels of benefits and protections, can be daunting.

Despite ongoing efforts by the government to simplify regulations, understanding the legal framework is crucial before making any kind of move internationally. With the right guidance, companies can streamline operations and enhance long-term success.

This article aims to equip your businesses with the essential knowledge and strategies needed for a smooth and secure entry into the French market, optimizing opportunities while minimizing complications.


French Labor Law Regulations


Understanding and adhering to Labor Law in France is paramount for successful business operations in this promising market. The nation’s stringent protections for workers ensure severe penalties for mistreatment, meaning employers must be specially aware of their duties.

It’s crucial to assess if you possess the requisite knowledge and structures for legal compliance. The Code du Travail (or Labor Code) (in French), which governs and regulates the majority of work conditions, is always evolving. Recent additions like the “right to disconnect” demonstrate the intention of French labor laws to protect and guarantee good working conditions for employees.

Collective Bargaining Agreements further tailor regulations based on industry, often at the national, regional, or company level, supplementing general French labor laws. With over 95% of French contracts being influenced by a CBA, it’s essential to know how your workers or industry are affected.


Employment Contracts in France


Employers must adhere to French labor laws and practices, outlined in the Labor Code. This code favors whichever standards are higher when a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) conflicts with the Code.

Written contracts detailing job specifics like hours and salary are mandatory for workers.

The two most common types of contract for workers are permanent (CDI) and fixed-term (CDDI), with the former offering comprehensive benefits and the latter used for specific projects or seasonal work, lasting up to 24 months.

Probation periods, typically 2-4 months, allow for simpler contract termination.

It should also be remembered that, under French labor laws, specific contract terms supersede national minimums or CBA requirements where they include preferential conditions.



Working Hours and Overtime in France


French labor law mandates a 35-hour maximum workweek, though overtime is common. Employees receive at least a 1-hour lunch break, often longer. After 6 hours of work, a 20-minute break is required, with a minimum 11-hour gap between shifts.

Overtime, meaning any working hours that exceed the 35-hour maximum, is compensated at 125% for the first 8 hours and 150% thereafter, or more commonly, through additional leave.

Annual overtime is capped at 220 hours per employee. Sunday work is generally prohibited, except for certain sectors.

Night shifts, meaning any work performed from 9 pm to 6 am, entail specific conditions such as the fact that they may not exceed 40 hours per week (unless specified in a CBA).


Types of Leave in France


French labor law offers extensive employee benefits, primarily regulated by social security contributions.

There are 11 public holidays, with May 1st being the only statutory paid holiday.

Employees are entitled to up to 25 days of annual leave, extendable to 30 in some sectors.

Sick leave, covered by social security, can last up to 6 months, potentially extended to a year.

Maternity leave is typically a minimum of 16 weeks, with an allowance so long as mothers meet social security payment minimums. Fathers can expect 28 days of paid paternity leave. Parental leave can extend from 6 months to 3 years, with a monthly allowance paid by the employee’s social security fund that decreases over time.

Bereavement leave lasts 7 days for child loss and 3 days for close family loss. Additionally, employees may take off up to 4 days for marriage and 1 day for a child’s wedding.


Termination and Severance in France


Employee termination in France requires a legitimate reason and adherence to a stringent process, often involving severance pay. Severance compensation, determined by the French Labor Code or the employee’s CBA, cannot fall below thresholds based on the length of an employee’s service.

Termination may occur due to economic reasons (redundancy) or personal reasons (misconduct, poor performance), with fair warning and documentation required.

Severance compensation amounts to a minimum of 25% of a worker’s monthly wages for each year of service, up to a maximum of 10 years. Once an employee surpasses 10 years of tenure, the severance entitlement increases to 33% of one month’s wage for each additional year of service.

Severance packages must be outlined in employment agreements, with higher amounts potentially attracting top talent. Professionals with at least 8 months of employment receive severance based on monthly income and years of service.

Fixed-term contract employees receive roughly 10% of their earned income as severance.


Establishing a Legal Entity in France


Expanding into France presents lucrative opportunities within the EU’s open trade framework. With a robust economy and business-friendly environment, France facilitates quick and straightforward business setups for EU citizens.

However, specific industry restrictions and complex French labor laws continue to exist and cause issues for investors.

France ranks 32nd globally for business friendliness, offering stable practices and ongoing streamlining efforts.

However, foreign investors face limitations in sensitive sectors and require additional approvals.

Visa options vary for workers and remote employees, with permits available for long-term business activities.

The different types of business entities available in France, including SA (Société Anonyme, equivalent to a Public Limited Company) and SARL (Société à Responsabilité Limitée, or Limited Liability Company), offer different levels of liability and administration. Many investors find themselves in trouble, however, when they realize the level of protection and benefits that must be offered to workers in France in order to maintain compliance.