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A Guide to Employee Rights in France 🇫🇷

Posted onApril 20, 2021byVivian Morgado
A guide to employee rights in France

Considering employing someone in France? To do that compliantly, an employer has a lot of obligations they have to fulfil. One comprehensive and important topic is the set of local employee rights a remote worker in France is entitled to.

Below is a guide to employee rights in France to help you understand what you need to comply with in a country known to be extra protective of its employees. (You can read about employee rights in AustraliaIrelandthe UKPortugalGermany, The Netherlands and Poland). 

To employ someone in France, you need to be a registered employer. To get a full overview of what employing someone in France would take and see all the obligations you will have as an employer, please read our France Country Guide. (For a more general list of what you need to do in every country to employ someone, check out this list).

Alternatively, you can work with an Employer of Record, such as Boundless, which will employ the worker on your behalf locally through what is known as Portage Salarial. That would spare you any registrations and ensure compliance with employment and tax law, all the while assuring harmonised experience for your employees there. 

Regardless of the employment approach, all employees in France are entitled to the following employee rights.

General Rights

Employment contract

Employers must provide employees with an employment contract that meets the local standards. France has two types of such contract: (1) a fixed-term contract (CDD) and (2) a permanent contract (CDI).

Contracts must be in French in order to be recognised. Employers may attach a translated version if necessary. Employees may request a translation of the agreement in their native language at the employer’s expense. The contract should include the following:

  • Employee’s job title and professional qualifications
  • Salary and bonus in euro
  • Collective agreement (convention collective) relative to the employment (an agreement between employers’ associations and trade unions regarding work conditions and agreements)
  • Place of work
  • Duration of the contract
  • Trial period
  • Notice period
  • Benefits

Payslip

Employers must provide employees with a monthly itemised payslip breaking down the overtime pay, bonuses, vacation pay, illness pay, gross salary, net salary, social security contributions, complementary pensions and unemployment insurance. The payslip should also include the annual leave accrued. Employees have a right to request copies of their salary and time records breaking down information such as days or hours worked by the employee, the wage paid weekly or monthly, and the method of calculating the compensation.

Remote work

Employees in roles that allow them to carry their tasks remotely can request to work from home. They can inform their employer of their intention either verbally or in writing, and the employer must justify any refusal. Employers do not need to make changes to the employment contract to allow telework, but a work-from-home supplement helps to set rules and expectations.

Employees working remotely benefit from the same rights as those working in-office. Additionally, employees who do not have a dedicated office space on company premises are entitled to a work-from-home allowance, which compensates them for using their private space as a working area. If an employee has a dedicated office space and requests to work from home, they are not entitled to the allowance. The allowance is usually €50 to €60 per month and is exempt from tax.

In France, employees in roles that allow them to carry their tasks remotely can request to work from home.

Health and safety

Employers also have an absolute contractual duty to protect their employees’ safety, and they can be held criminally liable for breaches of health and safety rules. Therefore, employers must strictly follow all legal provisions concerning safety in the workplace and evaluate, prevent, and record risks to protect employee’s health. Employers are responsible for employees’ welfare regarding occupational accidents, physical and psychological dangers and should provide them with information and training on preventing risks. Premises should be clean and clear of clutter; facilities and technical and safety devices should be maintained and checked regularly. Employees should have sufficient light and be protected against smoking and loud noises.

Employers must also keep records of their employees’ being exposed to dangerous working environments, intense work schedules, or other multiple professional risks. Employers should share those records with occupational doctors.

Companies with more than three hundred employees are required to establish a Health and Safety Commission.

Failure to record in writing or update the risk assessment results annually is punishable by fines of up to €10,000.

Employees who suffer work-related accidents are compensated by a lump-sum indemnity paid by the social security system, which seeks reimbursement for it from the employer in the event of gross negligence.

Workload revision meeting

Employees working from home are entitled to a yearly meeting with their managers to discuss their current workload and possible solutions. Moreover, employees have a right (employers should inform them of that) of requesting a secondary meeting in case of an increase in the workload.

Following the meetings, employers must take all the necessary measures to protect the employees’ health and safety. Employers should draft a report, which both employers and employees sign.

Right to disconnect

Employees in France have the right to disconnect from work once they’re off duty. Employers are prohibited from contacting employees outside of their work hours. To respect an employee’s private life, the work-from-home arrangement must establish availability periods where an employer can contact an employee by phone. Outside of these timeslots, an employee is under no obligation to respond to their employer’s requests.

Employees in France have the right to disconnect from work once they’re off duty. Employers are prohibited from contacting employees outside of their work hours

Protections

Termination protection

France has stringent laws when it comes to terminating an employee. Employers can terminate an employee only when there’s a genuine cause, and they must follow a termination procedure.

Employers can dismiss employees for personal or economic reasons. The termination on personal grounds can be disciplinary (misconduct) or not (poor performance, being unfit for work).

Before an employer ends employment, they must invite the employee for a pre-dismissal meeting at least five full business days in advance to discuss the situation and allow commenting or providing an explanation. Employees may be accompanied by another staff member or, if the company has no staff representative bodies, by an external employee advisor.

For disciplinary issues, the employer must inform the employee in writing of their final decision within 30 days of the meeting. If the employer decides to proceed with the termination, they must explain each reason behind their decision.

Additional protection

Certain employees benefit from additional dismissal protection, making it more difficult to terminate their employment during the protection period. The following employees are entitled to the extra protection:

  • Employees on maternity leave: a prohibition against dismissal (mutually agreed termination remains a possibility)
  • Pregnant employees or those returning from maternity/paternity leave in the past ten weeks: protection from dismissal unless for reasons such as severe misconduct or impossibility to maintain employment
  • Employees on employment-related professional sick leave: protection from dismissal unless they have committed serious misconduct or it is impossible to maintain employment
  • Employees with a staff representative mandate: termination of contract requires the labour inspector’s authorisation
Employees in France have the right to disconnect from work once they’re off duty. Employers are prohibited from contacting employees outside of their work hours.

Protection from discrimination

Employers cannot discriminate against employees throughout the employment relationship — from the recruitment process to the ending of the employment — on the following grounds:

  • Origin
  • Gender
  • Morals
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetic characteristics
  • Particular vulnerability due to the apparent or known economic condition
  • Nationality
  • Ethnic or racial origin
  • Political opinions
  • Trade union activities
  • Religious beliefs
  • Physical appearance
  • Family name
  • Place of residence
  • Banking domiciliation
  • Medical condition
  • Disability and ability to speak another language other than French

In addition, following legal provisions, employers cannot dismiss employees for going on strike.

Discrimination is a criminal offence, which is punishable by a fine of up to €225,000, the prohibition to undertake activities for a certain period, and up to three years’ imprisonment of the company’s legal representative.

Protection from harassment

Employees are protected from sexual and psychological harassment as well as from sexist behaviours. Harassment is a criminal offence punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of €30,000.

Employers are liable for their employees’ mental health and must ensure that they work in a safe environment. Employers must display the text of the Criminal Code on harassment at the workplace. Staff representatives can alert the company (droit d’alerte) on the matter.

Whistleblower protection

Companies with more than 50 employees must set up a whistleblowing procedure, inform employees of the process, and explain how their identity and other information remain anonymous.

The dismissal of a good-faith whistleblower for revealing facts that could amount to an offence or a crime is void. That allows the employee to ask for their reinstatement. If the employee abuses the procedure, the employer can take disciplinary measures against them.

Certain employees benefit from additional
dismissal protection, including: ☑️ Employees on maternity leave ☑️ Pregnant employees or those returning from maternity/paternity leave in the past ten weeks ☑️ Employees on employment-related professional sick leave ☑️ Employees with a staff representative mandate

Data protection (GDPR)

Among all the other GDPR requirements, employers must handle employees’ data with care and security. Personal data is defined as any information related to an identified or identifiable individual. Specific provisions aim to protect employees’ data. Employees have a right to do the following:

  • Get access to their data
  • Request the rectification of their data
  • Request the erasure of their data
  • Restrict or object to processing of their data
  • Request the portability of their data
  • Define guidelines concerning their data in the event of the employee’s death

Employers, as data controllers, must follow six data protection principles when collecting, processing, and storing employees’ data:

  • Ensure the lawfulness, fairness, and transparency of the data
  • Ensure the data use is limited only to the purpose for which the data was collected
  • Minimise the amount of data collected to only that what is necessary
  • Ensure the accuracy of the data
  • Limit the data stored to only what is required
  • Ensure the integrity and confidentiality of the data

Employers will be responsible and must be able to demonstrate compliance with these principles on an ongoing basis and at any time. They must implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk.

Except where otherwise provided by law, companies are prohibited from recording and storing the following information on employees:

  • Racial or ethnic origins
  • Political, religious, or philosophical opinions
  • Union membership
  • Medical information
  • Sexual orientation

Beyond the sanctions provided through GDPR, any breach of this rule is punishable by five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to €300,000.

Benefits

Unemployment funds

Employees dismissed from their jobs are entitled to receive an unemployment allowance from the government if they fulfil the criteria.

Employers in France are liable for their employees’ mental health and must ensure that they work in a safe environment.

Overtime pay

Employees working beyond the 35-hour workweek are entitled to overtime pay. Before an employer can ask an employee to work overtime, the two must have previously agreed to it in writing. The extra pay should follow the statutory requirements.

Redeployment leave

Applies to companies with one thousand or more employees in EC and EEA member states that employ a minimum of 150 people in at least two member states.

Companies that make employees redundant due to economic reasons must offer them a redeployment leave. Its purpose is to provide the employee benefit from training and job search programs. The redeployment leave is granted for a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 12 months (up to 24 for months the employee undertakes training for a career change) and takes place during the notice period, which the employee is not required to perform.

If the redeployment leave period exceeds the notice period’s length, employment termination is postponed until the end of the redeployment leave. During that excess period, the employer must continue to pay the employee an amount equal to 65% of the average monthly gross remuneration that the employee received over the preceding 12 months.

Want to see all benefits in France in a neatly packed visual way and see how leading employers augment these benefits? Download our France benefits benchmark infographic.

Job Security

Works council

All employers with at least 11 employees must put a work council in place, known as Comité Social et Economique (CSE). Employees are elected for a four-year term of office and benefit from additional termination protection. The size and attributes of the CSE depend on the number of employees in the company.

Depending on their size and the nature of the envisaged project, companies must (1) inform and consult the CSE before making any decisions that impact the business’s running and working conditions and (2) provide period information about the business to the council. The CSE is entitled to be part of the board and shareholders’ meeting. For companies with more than one thousand employees, the CSE representatives on the board gain voting rights.

Employees working beyond the 35-hour workweek are entitled to overtime pay and must first agree to doing overtime.

Want to employ someone in France?

Adhering to employment law and employee rights in France will require a commitment to learning and working with a lot of local regulations. We are here to help you on that journey and take the time to make sense of complex legislative information, which we turn into easy to understand resources and comprehensive country guides (check our guide to France).

However, staying on top of French employment law may not be a top priority for you right now. That doesn’t mean you should give up on employing your next remote worker out of France or opt for hiring them as an independent contractor instead (which is a bad idea). 

Boundless can help you employ anyone in France legally and hassle-free. This is done through what is known as Portage Salarial, a uniquely French concept that bears no translation, but is loosely similar to what is known as an "umbrella company" in the UK. The model works out as a three-party arrangement between the worker (salarié porté), the portage (who acts as the employer in France, Boundless in this case) and companies who are the beneficiaries of the work. As a portage, Boundless gives workers the benefits of employee status granting them the sort of rights, protections and benefits listed above. Learn more.

The making available of information to you on this site by Boundless shall not create a legal, confidential or other relationship between you and Boundless and does not constitute the provision of legal, tax, commercial or other professional advice by Boundless. You acknowledge and agree that any information on this site has not been prepared with your specific circumstances in mind, may not be suitable for use in your business, and does not constitute advice intended for reliance. You assume all risk and liability that may result from any such reliance on the information and you should seek independent advice from a lawyer or tax professional in the relevant jurisdiction(s) before doing so.
Written by Vivian Morgado

Vivian leads Global Operations Research at Boundless. She specializes in understanding and documenting country requirements for Boundless expansion and creating HR-related country guides for our customers. Having spent the past 4 years wandering the globe, she understands both the culture and the bureaucracy that comes with establishing a multi-country operation.

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