End of employment

What to do if you lose your job

End of employment

The French legal system is particularly rigid concerning work termination and protect well the employees. Learn about your rights and if you risk to be fired, get a legal advisor. This will pay definitely off as you can manage to get a good compensation.

There are basically two ways to end the employment contract: by termination - initialized by employer (a dismissal for professional/individual reasons or for economic reasons) or by resignation - initialized by employee.

(1) Termination

An employer can dismiss you either for professional/individual or for economic reasons. The reason for the dismissal will affect the termination process.

(a) Dismissal for professional/individual reasons

Individual dismissals are possible for disciplinary reasons (offence by the employee) or for non-disciplinary reasons (professional incapacity, loss of confidence, refusal to make a substantial change to your employment contract for instance). This is called a  licenciement pour motif personnel.

Such a termination must be based on a real case that is precisely detailed and verifiable, in addition to being of sufficient importance to justify a termination. The following reasons cannot be used for dismissal:

  • gender, family situation or nationality
  • ethnic group, race or religion
  • state of health or disablement (except in a case of incapacity recorded by the industrial doctor)
  • pregnancy, maternity or adoption
  • occupational accidents or illness
  • participation in a legal strike
  • opinions expressed in the context of employees' freedom of expression
  • political opinions or trade union membership and activity
  • exercising a right (e.g. contacting the labour inspectorate or an industrial tribunal)

Formal Dismissal Interviews (Entretien préalable): The employer must invite you to an interview by registered letter or signed for personal delivery. You should be given five days notice, unless there is a staff representative going to be present.

The letter should state the reasons for the interview, as well as its location, date and time. You will be informed whether of not a staff representative or external advisor can be present in the meeting and told where to go to get a list of potential advisors from a relevant state agency. If the dismissal is disciplinary, it is necessary to make the invitation within two months of learning about the event/s or reasons leading to the dismissal.

During the interview, the employer must explain the reasons for the planned dismissal and then listen to any explanations/submissions you have. Going to the meeting is not compulsory, although in many instances this is desirable. You must be notified of dismissal one day after the meeting, by registered letter stating the exact reasons for the dismissal.

Appeal (Recours): If dismissed for reasons that are not fair or justified, you may appeal to an industrial tribunal. If you have worked for more than two years and your company has eleven or more employees, a judge deciding you have been unfairly dismissed can force your re-employment with full benefits. An employer deciding not to re-employ can be ordered to pay compensation equivalent to at least 6 months' salary (with 2 years or more in employment) or compensation for damages (less than 2 years in employment).

(b) Redundancy for economic reasons

This is defined as a dismissal for reason(s) not related to the employee - such as significant changes to the nature of the work arising from economic factors or technological changes or the refusal to accept a significant modification of terms of employment. It is called a licenciement pour motif économique.

Dismissals based on normal professional practices, such as a builder on the completion of an apartment block, are not regarded as redundancies. Before making redundancies, an employer must make every effort to retrain or re-employ people in equivalent positions - such offers must be made precisely in writing.

(2) Resignation

You can resign (démission) without requirements to justify this to your employer - however, you may not resign with the intention of harming your employer. A resignation may be made verbally, but a registered letter is preferable.

Forced resignation: If resigning because you are no longer being given work, have had employment changes, been demoted or encouraged to leave, state this clearly in writing. In some instances, a forced resignation can legally be regarded as similar to redundancy.

Resignation: A freely taken decision to resign is regarded as a definitive act. An unconsidered resignation made while the employee is in an emotional state may be reversible. This will normally only take place in the instance of a quick retraction.

You are normally required to work your notice period according to your contract or collective agreement (usually 3 months). You might normally be allowed 2 hours/day to search for other employment during the notice. Falling ill during your notice period does not effect its length, but you will be required to go back to work when getting better. Your remaining annual leave is also included in the notice period.

Further reading

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