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Employment Law in France

Employment relationships and conditions in France are extensively regulated by legislation, mainly in the form of the Labour Code (Code du Travail). The Code contains almost all statutory provisions related to individual and collective employment matters and is continuously added to and amended as new laws, regulations and decrees are adopted. Case law interprets the Labour Code.

The Social Security Code (Code de la Sécurité Sociale) deals with matters such as benefits for employees on sickness, maternity or paternity leave. The Penal Code (Code pénal) is relevant in some areas, such as non-discrimination, and health and safety.

Collective agreements are another key source of French employment regulation. Industry-level collective agreements exist in most sectors and cover the great majority of employees (they are often made binding on all employers and employees in a sector by the Government). Company-level collective agreements are negotiated mainly in larger companies.

Other important sources of law are individual employment contracts and the “internal regulations” that companies and establishments with 50 or more employees must draw up, dealing with matters such as health and safety, and discipline.

Broadly speaking, where there is any disparity or conflict between the terms of the Labour Code, collective agreements and the employment contract, the provisions that are most advantageous to the employee apply. The terms of company-level collective agreements take precedence over those of industry-level collective agreements, except in a small number of fields such as minimum pay rates. In a number of important areas, such as many aspects of working time and leave, the Labour Code lays down a core set of rules and leaves many other issues almost entirely to collective bargaining (primarily at company level) with back-up rules applying only in the absence of a collective agreement.

This topic refers to employment law in the private sector only.

Temporary COVID-19 Crisis Measures (as at 7 May 2020)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the French government has taken a number of temporary measures affecting some of the issues dealt with in this topic. Notably, in certain sectors deemed vital for the continuity of the economy and for public safety, it has increased the maximum limits on daily and weekly working hours (see under Normal and Maximum Hours) and allowed more derogations from the rules on daily and weekly rest periods (see under Rest Breaks and Rest Periods). Further, across the economy, employers can in certain circumstances require employees to take some of their annual leave at specific times (see under Annual Leave). In addition, the statutory rules and procedures on collective bargaining (see under Collective Bargaining and Collective Agreements) have been streamlined in the case of collective agreements on measures to address the effects of the crisis.

Employment Law in France: Quick Facts
  • When recruiting, employers must comply with legal rules on non-discrimination, candidates’ privacy, advertising jobs and, where applicable, the employment of foreign nationals. Recruitment and Selection

  • Probationary periods are subject to a statutory maximum of two to four months, depending on the category of employee. Recruitment and Selection

  • Indefinite-term employment contracts for full-time work are considered the norm. However, a range of other types of contract are permitted in certain circumstances, including fixed-term contracts and part-time contracts. Employment Contracts

  • Employers may unilaterally change an employees’ employment conditions, but a modification affecting the employment contract’s essential elements generally requires the employee’s agreement. Employment Contracts

  • In general, wages must be paid monthly by cheque or transfer or, at the employee’s request, in cash. Employers must provide detailed payslips and observe rules on deductions from pay. Pay and Benefits

  • Normal full-time working time is 35 hours per week and any additional weekly hours are in principle paid as overtime, though some flexibility is possible. There are maximum limits on working time. Part-time employees must generally work at least 24 hours a week. Working Time, Rest and Holidays

  • Employees must have minimum rest breaks and daily and weekly rest periods (usually including Sundays), and are entitled to five weeks’ paid annual leave. Working Time, Rest and Holidays

  • Working parents are entitled to maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave and parental leave, as relevant. Employees can also benefit from other types of leave to provide care and deal with family and personal matters. Parenthood and Work-life Balance

  • Discrimination in employment is prohibited on a very wide range of grounds, though differences in treatment are permitted in some circumstances. Women and men must receive equal pay for the same work or work of equal value. Equality and Discrimination

  • Employees are protected from both sexual and psychological harassment at work, and employers must take all measures necessary to prevent such harassment. Equality and Discrimination

  • Employers are obliged to bargain collectively with trade unions that have a certain level of support among employees. Employees have a right to strike. Industrial Relations and Collective Rights

  • Companies with at least 11 employees are required to have a social and economic committee, made up of elected employee representatives plus the employer, with wide-ranging information and consultation rights. Industrial Relations and Collective Rights

  • Employers have numerous detailed obligations in the health and safety field. Occupational Health and Safety

  • Employment contracts may be terminated: by the employer for a “real and serious” cause, for either personal or economic reasons; by the employee; or by mutual agreement. Additional requirements apply to collective economic dismissals. Termination of Employment

  • If an employer dismisses an employee, it must usually observe a statutory minimum notice period and make a minimum severance payment. Termination of Employment

  • Employees may contest the validity of their dismissal on the grounds that it was “null and void”, “unjustified” or “irregular”. Termination of Employment

  • When there is a business transfer, employees’ employment contracts are automatically transferred to the new employer. Other Key Issues

  • All companies and establishments with 50 or more employees must have a set of written internal regulations. Other Key Issues

  • When disciplining employees, employers must comply with a statutory procedure. Other Key Issues

  • Employers have various vocational training obligations and employees have a number of rights in this area. Other Key Issues