Law , engagement , rules , france

Employment Law Overview France

Employment Law Overview France

Key Points

  • All non-EU citizens need a work permit to work.
  • Employers and employees are free to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment relationship. However, employees have various minimum rights under the law, regardless of any provision to the contrary in their employment contract.
  • Usually, employees work 35 hours per week. Only hours worked at the request of the employee’s superior will be regarded as overtime.
  • Indefinite-term contracts: There must be real and serious grounds for dismissal (two types of valid grounds: personal grounds and economic grounds).
  • Severance payments are only awarded if the employee has the minimum length of service and the relevant CBA provisions.

Legal framework

Employment law in France is based primarily on the following sources, set out in order of priority:

  • the Constitution.
  • European legal instruments: consisting of EU law (including Treaty provisions, EU regulations and Directives and the case law of the European Court of Justice) and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental
  • the Labour Code: made up of laws, regulations and decrees, the Labour Code determines nearly every aspect of French employment
  • Case law: the provisions of the Labour Code are interpreted through decisions of the employment law section of French the Supreme Court (“Cour de cassation”).
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements (“CBAs”) (“Conventions collectives”): Collective Bargaining Agreements are written agreements, entered into between one or more employee representative trade unions and one or more employer representative They govern individual and collective employment relationships, working conditions and employee benefits in a given industry (e.g., the chemical, banking and pharmaceutical industries). Collective bargaining agreements can be binding on all employers whose line of business is covered by the agreement.
  • Collective company agreements (“Accords d’entreprise”): these agreements, which apply to specific companies, are signed by the employer and, in principle, trade union representatives present in the company.
  • Atypical agreements: at company level, agreements may be entered into with the staff delegates or the Works Council rather than with trade union representatives and, in such a case, they are defined as “atypical agreements”. They do not come under the category of collective company agreements. They are considered binding by the case law as a “unilateral commitment” (“engagement unilateral”) of the
  • Common practices (“usages”): these are the general, fixed and constant practices of the They concern, in particular, benefits granted to employees and some details regarding the operation of staff representative bodies. The Company may revoke those common practices at any time, subject to notifying the staff representatives and each individual employee concerned, along with respecting a reasonable notice period (normally three months) between the notification of the employees and the revocation of the common practice. 

New Developments 

In a bold move to secure employment conditions, the French government has recently rolled out sweeping reforms of their Labour Code. Aiming to simplify staff representation and make it easier for employers to effect dismissals, this groundbreaking decision goes even further than what President Hollande had initiated with his three labour laws since 2013 - ushering France into an uncharted and promising financial future. 

A. Changes to negotiating collective bargaining agreements 

The Macron reform in France brings about a series of changes for employers across the nation, introducing new regulations when it comes to compliance with labour codes. In addition to this, companies must also adhere to both sectorial collective bargaining agreements and company-specific CBAs if either are present - setting out specified conditions within each relevant business area or entity respectively. Combined, these two components help form an all-encompassing set of standards that ensure fair treatment between businesses owners and employees alike. 

B. Improved Capacity to Break with Sectorial CBA’S 

In the past, a company-wide agreement would not be able to derogate from sectorial collective bargaining agreements (CBA's). However this has recently begun to change with three distinct categories of reform being implemented. The “Block 1” matters mean that every employee is entitled minimum wage provided for by the CBA and cannot have their pay altered in an individualized contract. Furthermore, “Block 2” contains 4 topics around which companies must abide by what was previously agreed upon when it comes to policies regarding disabled persons entering into form labour employment arrangements. These reforms are set up as safeguards against unfair or unequal treatment within the workplace making sure people remain protected while at work regardless of who they are employed under. 

C. New Majority Rules for Entering into a Company Collective Bargaining Agreement 

Under French law, company agreements are entered into by the employer and the Union delegates (being employed in the company) having been appointed by Unions based on the results of the votes in the first round of the last elections of the works council (only unions are able to present candidates over this first round).

The principle of the majority collective agreement applies to all company agreements as of 1 May 2018: to be valid, the agreement must then be signed by one or more trade unions that received 50% of the votes cas

However, if the signatory representative trade union organisations only have 30 to 50% of the votes, it is possible to then use a new backup plan: revert to a company referendum meaning that all the employees’ opinions in relation to the agreement may be sought in order to render the agreement enforceable. t.ble.

Increased Capacity to Enter Into a Collective Bargaining Company Agreements in Small Companies or Without Trade Unions 

Small businesses in France were facing an immense struggle to accommodate working time arrangements. The Macron reform has allowed them the opportunity to make collective agreements, even without a union present, as long as certain conditions are met. This new change enables companies with no unions to come together and decide on suitable approaches through elected staff members or by involving their employees directly. 

Securisation of Companies’ CBA 

In light of the ever-changing and unpredictable nature of case law, the government has enacted a new provision to buffer employers from being heavily impacted by rulings that invalidate agreements. If determined appropriate, judges can now choose for retroactive effects to be limited in time or even just future facing. This ensures protections against potentially excessive consequences caused by annulment decisions. 

Frequency and Content of Mandatory Negotiations 

Companies where unions are present are required to conduct negotiations on some items listed by the Labour Code, under a certain frequency. The most important one is the annual negotiation on wages, working time and profit sharing.

It is now possible to set out by company agreement, the topics of mandatory negotiation in the company and the content of each theme. However, some issues, set out by law, must be negotiated at least once every 4 years.

Topics that can also be set out by agreement:

  • the frequency of compulsory negotiations (up to 4 years);
  • the calendar and meeting places;
  • information provided by the employer (or employers’ organisations) and the date of delivery;
  • the procedures for monitoring the commitments entered into by the parties.

Such a company agreement is concluded for a maximum duration of 4 years and can set the periodicity of its renegotiation. 

D. Staff Representation: the CSE (The Social and Economic Committee)

The Macron Reform has significantly simplified staff representation in companies. Up to now, there have been three types of staff representative bodies, all of which are chaired by the employer:

  • in companies with 11-49 staff: staff delegates (délégués du personnel);
  • in companies with 50 and above: staff delegates, a works council and a health and safety committee.

The staff delegates were in charge of relaying claims regarding the day-to-day working life of the company staff, while the works council is mainly in charge of economic matters, and the health and safety committee deals with health and security matters.

One of the main points in the Macron reforms is the merging of the current three staff representative bodies into one. The Works Council, Staff Delegates, and Health and Safety Committee are now combined into the Social and Economic Committee: the CSE. Note that it will also be possible, subject to the existence of a collective agreement, instead of a CSE, to implement a Conseil d’entreprise. This body would basically have the same prerogatives as the CSE but would, in addition, be able to enter into and revise collective agreements, instead of trade Union delegates that would no longer exist.

Timeframe for the CSE to be Implemented 

Companies with at least 11 employees must establish a CSE by December of this year - the ultimate deadline for implementation. The body remains unchanged regardless of company size, though an additional health, safety and working conditions commission is required in larger establishments housing 300 or more staff members. Ensure your business meets legal requirements to reap the rewards that come from having an efficient collaboration between employers and workers .

The number of seats to the CSE vary in proportion to the staff headcount. It ranges from 1 representative for companies with 11 employees to 35 representatives for companies with over 10,000 employees. 


Since 2008, entering into a mutual termination agreement with an individual employee is possible. This agreement has to be submitted to the labour administration’s approval, which can be implicit.

This scheme has proven to be very popular and not conflictual.

On the other hand, since 2013, the mass layoffs proceedings (at least 10 job eliminations in companies of 50 employees or more) had been placed under the labour administration’s control, and negotiation of the redundancy package with unions were strongly encouraged. This reform proved to have a positive outcome as the proceedings became less conflictual, and their duration and outcome more predictable.

Although those “forced departures” plans have become less conflictual, it remains a trauma for the workforce, and a significant source of financial exposure for the company. Also, this process, even in case an agreement is being reached with unions, still involves quite a long consultation process with the Works Council and the Health and Safety Committee.

Conscious that entering into forced departure plans might not always be the best way to deal with a need to reduce the size of the workforce, when voluntary departures appear to be possible, the Macron Government imagined a new scheme called “mutually agreed termination”, placed under the labour administration’s control, and subject to an agreement being reached with Unions representing the majority of the workforce.

Entering into this agreement does not require a consultation of the elected staff representatives, but they must be informed.

It may be implemented only to organise voluntary departures, meaning that an employee who would belong to a targeted job category must not have his job eliminated or substantially altered if he is not a candidate to this collective departure, that is proposed by the employer.


The Macron reform brings telework provisions into the 21st century, with the possibility of its implementation by collective agreement or, failing that, by a charter drawn up by the employer after a possible consultation with the CSE in some cases. In the absence of a charter or collective agreement on telework, it is possible to set up telework via an agreement between the employer and employee, formalised by any means.