10 Requirements to Know When Employing Staff in France

By Claire Dieterling March 29, 2019
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10 Requirements to Know When Employing Staff in France

​French employment law differs from that of other countries, including the United States, so companies that are doing business in or are looking to do business in France but are unfamiliar with French law need to know several frequently overlooked requirements. This article provides an overview of 10 mandates that foreign companies might not know.

1. Written Employment Contracts

French law requires written contracts only in specific cases, such as for fixed-term or part-time contracts. However, it may require a written contract with the applicable collective bargaining unit. For employers, a written contract makes it possible to include certain provisions in the agreement, especially with respect to intellectual property rights, confidentiality and noncompetition clauses. The employment contract must be drafted in French.

2. Protection Against Dismissal and Severance Pay

In France, there is no concept similar to employment at will. An employer must always have a legally fair reason to fire an employee, and it generally must follow a specific procedure that includes an invitation to a predismissal meeting, a predismissal meeting and a dismissal letter. In every dismissal except in the case of serious misconduct, the employer must pay a dismissal indemnity, calculated according to the employee's average pay and his or her seniority at the company. If the dismissal is not justified, the employer may have to pay an additional indemnity, which is capped by French law and depends on the dismissed worker's seniority, salary and the harm he or she suffered.

3. Notice Periods

In most dismissal cases, except in the case of serious misconduct, the employee has a right to a notice period. The legal notice period depends on the worker's seniority at the company, and collective bargaining agreements usually require a notice period of one to three months. The employee can request a shorter notice period, in which case he or she won't be paid for time not worked.

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4. Statutory Vacation

Employees are entitled to 30 days of paid vacation per year. Collective bargaining agreements can provide more paid vacation days or more leave based on an employee's seniority.

5. Working-Time Regulations

The law caps a five-day workweek at 35 hours, and an employee can't work more than 10 hours in any workday. Hours worked beyond 35 hours are overtime, paid at an increased rate.

6. Continued Pay During Sickness

French law does not require employers to pay workers during the first three days of sick leave, although a collective bargaining agreement can provide otherwise. After the third day, an employee on sick leave receives 59 percent to 66.66 percent (depending on the family situation) of his or her pay, which comes from the French social security system. On the seventh day of sick leave, employers must supplement the social security pay so that an employee receives, at a minimum, 90 percent of his or her full pay for the next 30 days and 66 percent for the following 30 days. Collective bargaining agreements often provide for more pay.

7. Maternity and Parental Leave

New mothers can take up to six weeks of paid maternity leave before a baby is due and up to 10 weeks after a baby is born. New mothers may get longer leave if they deliver multiple children or if two or more children are already living at home. New fathers can take three days of paid leave after a child's birth and up to 11 days during the first four months after the birth.

Those adopting children have 10 weeks of paid leave or 22 weeks if they adopt more than one child.

8. Minimum Wage

As of Jan. 1, France's minimum wage is 10.03 euros (approximately U.S. $11.39) an hour. However, collective bargaining agreements often provide higher minimum wages.

9. Noncompete and Nonsolicitation Provisions

Employers can require former workers to sign noncompetition agreements only if the company can prove that doing so is necessary to protect the company's interests. In addition, the employer must pay a worker until the noncompetition agreement expires—typically about 30 percent of the worker's pay. Such agreements can last only a limited time, usually for one year. Employers should consider whether it makes financial sense to require a noncompetition agreement.

10. Works Councils

Companies that have employed at least 11 workers for a full year must create a committee of elected employees who present concerns and complaints to company leaders.

In companies with at least 50 employees, the committee's role is more substantial: It consults with company leaders on decisions regarding the company's organization, management and general operations. It also oversees social and cultural activities for employees.

Claire Dieterling is an attorney with Taylor Wessing in Munich and Paris.

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