All you need to know about French work contracts


Employment conditions should be specified in a written employment contract (Contrats de travail). There are five main types of contracts.

Full-time permanent contact - CDI (Contrat à durée indéterminée):
This contract does not have a fixed term of employment. There is usually a 3-month trial period at the start of the employment. Either party can elect to terminate a contract (for more information click here). This kind of contract provides very stable employment as it quite complicated and expensive to fire people.

Full-time fixed term contact - CDD (Contrat à durée déterminée):
This is a full-time contract with a specified length of employment term. There is no minimum period, but 9 months is normal. It can only be renewed for the same period as the initial contract. The maximum permitted length that someone can work under a CDD is 18 months, after which employment must cease or be transferred to a CDI. An employer cannot end a CDD before the official termination date. The majority of new contracts in France today are CDD, mainly due to the difficulties and costs associated with firing people on CDI's.

Temporary work contract (Contrat temporaire):
Contract conditions are practically the same as for a CDD. The main difference is there are three parties involved; the employee, the employment agency and the employing company. Companies can only use a temporary employee for the performance of a short-term activity (mission). There is no law to prevent a company subsequently contracting directly with a temporary employee, although this may mean they have to pay a fee to the agency.

According to an agreement in 2013, a temporary work agency (agence d’intérim) may also conclude an indefinite contract to assign the employer to a user undertaking to perform successive assignments (which will be paid as working time), instead of ending the contract directly.

Part-time contract (Contrat de travail à temps partiel):
Part-time employment is considered to be less than 80% of legal or contractual working hours. The average part-time work week in France is around 23 hours. Although minimum working hours are not legally specified in the private sector, a minimum of 60 hours/month are required to qualify for social security benefits. For public sector jobs or those in an industry with legally limited working hours, part-time working hours must be 50-80% of those for full-time contracts.

Intermittent employment (Le travail intermittent):
This kind of contract is used mainly for seasonal jobs, such as grape-picking or work in the tourist industry.

Amendments of employment contracts

Your employer may propose changing a condition in your employment contract: such as location, working hours or pay.

If your employer is considering the change for economic reasons (arising from economic factors or technological changes in the company's business), he must inform you of this by registered letter (lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception).

A letter will normally state you have one month from receipt to inform the employer of your refusal. Otherwise you are deemed to have accepted the amendment. If you refuse, the employer can then chose to continue, which will normally mean firing you or proposing a compromise. You are entitled to notice and to redundancy compensation if you are over the minimum length of service.

A reduction in the number of contractual working hours based on a collective agreement does not constitute an individual contract amendment. If you refuse such an amendment, your dismissal is an individual dismissal not based on economic reasons.

Further reading

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