Employment Law in France: The Basics

by Fisher Phillips
Contact

France, the largest country in Western Europe, with a population of approximately 64 million people, and which borders eight different countries plays an integral role in Europe and the worldwide market. Given its central geographic location, highly developed infrastructure and qualified workforce, many companies around the world have chosen to do business in France. However, it is imperative that companies who are already doing business in France and companies who are considering doing business in France be aware of the country’s strict employment and labor laws as they apply to employment contracts, wage and hour, terminations and anti-harassment and discrimination laws. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief overview of some of the basic principles of employment law in France and to inform employers of recent developments in potential labor reform.

Sources of Employment Law in France

 The primary sources of employment law in France are the French Constitution, the French codified collection of employment law provisions knows as the “Code du Travail”, Collective Bargaining Agreements known as “Conventions Collectives de Travail” and work regulations known as “Reglèment Interieur” applicable to discipline and health and safety standards.

Employment Contracts

In France, there are two types of employment contracts. An employee can be employed pursuant to an open-term contract (“contrat à durée indéterminée”) or pursuant to a fixed-term contract (“contrat a durée déterminée”). Employment contracts should be in writing although not required unless the contract is for a fixed term or if a Collective Bargaining Agreement requires that it be in writing. An open-term contract, as the title suggests, is for an indefinite period of time.

 Any written employment contract should contain the following specific information regarding the particular employment:

  • The identity of the employee and employer;
  • The employee’s duties and responsibilities;
  • Duration of the contract;
  • The place of work;
  • The amount of compensation;
  • Whether there is a specific probationary period at the commencement of the employment;
  • Any applicable notice periods relevant to the employment;
  • Amounts of paid leave available; and
  • Regular working hours.

Pursuant to article L. 1221-3 of the Code du Travail, the employment contract must be in French although translations of the contract in alternative languages may be provided to the employee along with the French version.

Collective Bargaining Agreements

Collective Bargaining Agreements are sometimes applicable nationally and others at a localized level and typically relate to a particular sector of the industry or commerce. Collective Bargaining Agreements are binding upon employers even if that employer was neither a part of the collective bargaining negotiations nor a member of any employer representative group who participated in the collective bargaining negotiations. Thus, it is important for an employer in France to regularly verify the provisions of an applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement so that the employer is consistently aware of any changes and/or updates that have been made. This is especially important to ensure that an employee is being compensated in accordance with the minimum compensation required by the particular agreement.

Working Hours and Overtime Requirements

Regular working hours in France are 35 hours a week. Any hours worked in excess of 35 hours will be considered compensable overtime. The first eight hours of overtime are paid at a rate of 25 percent higher than the employee’s regular rate of pay. Any overtime hours worked in excess of eight are compensated at a rate of 50 percent more than the employee’s regular rate of pay. The 35-hour work week does not apply to certain executives which are exempt from overtime requirements.

Terminations

In France, like most European countries, there is no employment “at will” meaning that an employer can not terminate an employee unless it is for a reason recognized by the Code du Travail. Legal reasons for terminating an employment contract include the following:

  • The expiration of the contract term, if applicable;
  • Resignation by the employee if the resignation is a clear decision on behalf of the employee which should be confirmed in writing by the employer;
  • Termination by mutual agreement which must be set forth in a formal written agreement and signed by both the employee and employer;
  • Death of the employee;
  • Retirement by the employee;
  • Dismissal on personal grounds for misconduct by the employee if the employer follows the legal procedures and notice requirements applicable to the particular employee. Notice requirements will vary depending upon the level of misconduct of the employee and are set forth both in Code du Travail and relevant case law;
  • A Redundancy, which is the termination of an employee for economic grounds, typically when a particular job function is eliminated. The procedure for implementing a redundancy is very specific and set forth in detail in the Code du Travail.

Sexual Harassment Law

In May of 2012, the French Constitutional Council repealed the sexual harassment law in effect at the time, Section 222-33 of France’s Penal Code, which defined sexual harassment as the “act of harassing others to gain sexual favors”. Under the former law, violations carried a jail sentence of one year and a fine equivalent to $18,500. The Council determined that the definition of sexual harassment set forth in the law was far too vague and did not offer enough protection to potential victims because it did not appropriately address all forms of sexual harassment. After its repeal and to the outrage of many throughout the country, France was without a sexual harassment law for almost three months. The timing of the repeal also gained international attention because it came within a year after then International Monetary Fund Chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French citizen, was charged with sexually assaulting a maid in New York City. The charges, although ultimately dropped, lead to his resignation and put the issue of sexual harassment into the spotlight.

Finally, in July of 2012, the French Parliament passed much tougher and broader sexual harassment legislation. The new law now defines harassment as “imposing on someone, in a repeated way, words or actions that have a sexual connotation and either affecting the person’s dignity because of their degrading or humiliating nature or putting him or her in an intimidating, hostile or offensive situation.” The law extends to the workplace and provides for a possible two-year jail sentence and a fine of up to 30,000 euros for violations. The most serious offenses, such as harassing a disabled individual, are punishable by a jail sentence of up to three years.

Anti-discrimination Law

France, like the United States, also has strict laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. The Code du Travail prohibits discrimination based upon an individual’s sex, lifestyle, sexual orientation, age, family situation, non-membership, whether genuine or assumed, of an ethnic group, nation or race, political beliefs, trade union activities, religious beliefs, physical appearance, surname, state of health or disability. Moreover, the definition of discriminatory practices provided by the Code du Travail applies to recruitment, access to placement or in-company training programs, pay, job classifications, promotions, transfers from one workplace to another, terminations and renewal of employment contracts. Notably, employers can be held both civilly and criminally liable for violations of the antidiscrimination laws.

Recent Developments in French Labor Law

Last week, French employer groups and three major labor unions agreed to enact major labor reforms. These reforms, which will be the most significant in decades, are expected to provide employers with more flexibility to terminate employees for economic reasons, lessen the costs incurred by employers when implementing layoffs and allow employers to temporarily cut wages in an economic downturn. French President Francois Hollande is hoping that such measures will improve economic competitiveness internationally and decrease unemployment rates domestically. Employer groups and labor unions have struggled for months to come to an agreement with unions heavily opposing greater flexibility in work contracts and demanding more job security for short term workers.  The draft reforms are expected to be prepared in early 2013.

 

Written by:

Fisher Phillips
Contact
more
less

Fisher Phillips on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.