Labor Law in France

Labor Law in France : what you need to know (general principles)

French Labor Law seeks to protect wages and jobs and hence it is quite restrictive for employers.

A wage earner is any individual employed by a company in which there is a relationship of subordination. This occurs whenever the employee does not hold a majority of the capital and is not remunerated by virtue of a business contract (outsourcing) and is not one of the company’s legal counsels.

Labor Law applies in principle to all wage earners working in France, if they are employed by a non-EU company. If the employer is an EU-company, wage earners can choose either the law of the company’s country, either the French Labor Law. In practice, French wage earners always choose the French Labor Law.

The most frequent forms of contract are permanent (undetermined duration) job contracts (CDI) or temporary (determined duration) job contracts (CDD). In the absence of a temporary contract, what applies is a permanent contract. A contract must obligatorily be drafted in the event of temporary contracts and it is strongly recommended for permanent contracts.

How Labor Code interacts with collective agreements

The Labor Code, which is the basic regulation, can be replaced by a collective wage agreement or by a company wage agreement if said collective wage agreement and/or company wage agreement provide more favorable wages and working conditions than the Labor Code.

Per the Labor Code, every wage earner has to be paid more than the minimum wage (known as the SMIC). The SMIC amounts to  €1,480 a month as from January 1st, 2017. It is generally raised once a year, though not by much more than the inflation rate.

Is it possible to draw up a labor contract in English per the French Labor Law?

A contract must be drawn up in French in order to be legally valid. Ethical codes, which can be drafted in English (as required by the SOX provisions) in principle must not go against wages.

Hence, when a contract is drawn up both in French and English, the latter language is used for information purposes only.

Work time per Labor Law In France

The legal workweek is 35 hours. Wage earners can work overtime under certain conditions. For non-executives, overtime is paid depending on the supplementary hours actually performed calculated. For executives, overtime is included in their wage. However in both cases, overtime is compensated through additional day-offs.

Hiring and Lay-off per the French Labor Law

When they are hired, wage earners go through a trial period during which they can easily be dismissed. This period lasts one month for employees and three months for managers. Termination of wage earners jobs at companies is highly regulated. Dismissals of wage earners must be notified in writing. The layoff of any wage earner is always accompanied by severance pay which is proportional to the wage earner’s seniority at the company. However, to speed up the process of individual lay-offs, companies are given to resorting to mutual termination (rupture conventionnelle in French) in particular when the wage earner is an executive.

Senior executives (CEO, Chairman) are never considered wage earners as far as labor law is concerned. The above-mentioned rules do not apply to them. They may be removed from office at any time without severance, provided that it is not done in an offensive manner.

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