There are various forms of French employment contract, e.g. interim contracts, contracts of apprenticeship, the status of auto-entrepreneur, together with the “insertion” style of contract which was developed as a method of helping the long-term unemployed to find work.
The majority of people are employed under either the contrat de travail à durée déterminée (CDD), i.e. fixed-term contract, or the contrat de travail à durée indéterminée (CDI), i.e. permanent contract.
All employees must work under a recognised contract. French employment law favours permanent contracts, the CDI, which is much more beneficial to employees. Nonetheless, certain exceptions allow employers to use Fixed-Term Contracts, the CDD.
The CDI contract provides for employment that is stable and permanent. The CDD is seen as a contract under someone may be hired to fulfil a particular short-term role.
The French Labour Code identifies exceptional circumstances under which an employer may be permitted to hire workers under a Fixed-Term contract as the following:
Employers can hire temporary workers to replace an absent employee.
For an initial period, a CDD (Fixed-Term) contract may be availed of to address a vacancy arising from retirement, a worker leaving the company, or to fill a gap stemming from the promotion of an employee to another role within the company.
Factors to note:
An employer has the right to hire individuals on temporary contracts so as to react to the challenges of a short-term, or unforeseen, augmentation in activity.
Legally recognised reasons for availing of a CDD contract on this basis include the following:
Employers may hire temporary workers under CDD contracts to perform functions or meet short-term requirements which repeat, more or less, at the same periods each year; e.g. the farming and tourism industries.
A CDD contract should normally contain both a defined expiry date and a minimum duration period. It should terminate on the contacted date, or when the its purpose has been realised (such as the completion of emergency works). The maximum length of contract is variable. This depends upon the circumstances which justified its use or on the form of CDD.
Nonetheless, the initial length of a CDD in addition to the periods of any renewals can not surpass the maximum duration permitted. A CDD can be renewed on two occasions for a particular period, or from one defined date to another. This period can be equal to, shorter than, or even longer than that which was originally provided for in the original contract.
The maximum length of a CDD contract with a defined expiry, or from date to date, can run from three months to two years. ‘Specific purpose’ or ‘Senior’ CDD, contracts may last up to three years.
The contrat de travail à durée indéterminée is a contract of employment in which the duration, or completion date, is “undetermined”. That is to say that in ordinary circumstances the contract does not need to be renewed.
Nonetheless, such a contract can be terminated at any time via a unilateral decision; e.g. a decision by the employee to offer his or her resignation, or by the employer if they feel that there are suitable grounds to dismiss the employee.
Increasingly, French businesses are opting to hire trainees working in alternance. The ability to provide a vocational training contract permits a business to meet the challenges that are posed by regular staff turn-over, to replace employees on sick leave or holiday, and to assist in addressing a short-term spike in activity at an affordable cost.
As an apprentice, an alternance regime employee is paid a lower wage than colleagues. Nevertheless, an alternance training contract is an excellent opportunity to obtain valuable hands-on experience in the sector and to benefit from the tutoring of a qualified colleague who can offer detailed explanation of the nuances of the profession and the goals of the enterprise.
Companies which would like to recruit trainees to work under alternance contracts should be aware of the following:
Alternance should be understood as a sincere partnership between the employer and the trainee.
Prior to beginning the search for a suitable candidate, one must clearly identify the business’ needs. Therefore, the profile of the position offered to any future contracted apprentice should be precisely defined.
The position must fall under one of the training programs that are offered by the National Ministries of Education & Agriculture.
In the description of the post, the following information must be made clear:
The birth of the Internet has made it easier for a business to find suitable candidates to fill its vacant positions. This remains the case should a company be recruiting a trainee under an alternance contract, or an experienced worker under a full-time contract.
The key task when it comes to internet recruiting is to draft an attractive job advertisement so as to draw in as many applications as possible.
Interviewing applicants allows the recruiter to clarify the impression the candidate makes in person and to assess how well he or she communicates.
When the candidate has been chosen, the employer must take the required administrative steps to guarantee correct compliance with French labour law.
The employer is obliged to sign a declaration of commitment, confirming that it will be responsible for providing the necessary work equipment, that the apprentice’s tutor will be appropriately qualified, and that it will guarantee the organisation of the alternance work period. The employer must then draft the alternance contract.
A tutor must be chosen to carry out the training of a future employee under an alternance contract. This individual is directly responsible for the trainee during the apprenticeship contract.
The tutor is required to:
When the contract has been signed by the parties, the administrative steps followed and a tutor named, the employer and the alternat can begin their partnership.
Alternance contracts offer various advantages to businesses.
Training employees in alternance helps their integration into the business and guarantees that he or she learns the specific skills that are required. After completion of the apprenticeship period, a company can hope to engage an employee permanently in confidence that they are able to carry out the required tasks.
Alternance training can last from a minimum of 6 months to 3 years maximum. This allows the employer to supervise the integration of trainees and observe their development in the workplace.
The details of alternance training are adjustable to the individual recruitment problems that a business may encounter. Alternance, therefore is a way of addressing a lack of satisfactory candidates in smaller, or more specialised, industries or activities.
Alternance training is adapted to the needs of companies which are addressing an immediate requirement to recruit staff. It can represent an investment for the employer, with a view to preparing itself to engage permanent employees who can meet its future development goals.
Alternance training enables an employer to make significant savings when compared with the ordinary practice of hiring a worker. To compensate the efforts made by businesses in undertaking alternance training, the contracts provides for minimum levels of payment. These are lower than than standard salaries. Moreover the business does not include alternance trainees in the official size of its workforce (and can therefore avoid a number of the obligations which would usually go with it).
Under an apprenticeship contract, the minimum permitted level of remuneration is between 25 to 78% of the Smic depending upon the candidate’s age and qualifications when the contract was signed.
Under a vocational training contract, the payment of apprentices ranges from a minimum of 65% of the Smic (a trainee who has graduated high school and is less than 21 years of age), to a maximum of 85% of the standard minimum salary within the subject industry for a trainee who is 26 years of age or older.
To acknowledge the efforts undertaken by the employer for the training of alternance employees, various supports and exemptions have been made available to facilitate the reduction of the costs of training.
Apprenticeship contracts allow businesses to profit from regional support, the exoneration of social charges connected to the contract (depending on the number of employees) and an a tax credit for apprenticeships. The training of ‘apprentice masters’ is comprised in the fee payable for continuing professional development.
Vocational training contracts give employers the right to a reduction in employers’ contributions on lower and average salaries, a total exoneration of contributions if the apprentice is aged at least 45 years of age, and support for the employment of trainees aged at least 26 years or of currently registered jobseekers.
Numerous actors are involved in advising and helping businesses who want to recruit alternance trainees.
The OPCA, are state bodies which are charged with collecting the required financial contributions of those businesses that offer professional training. Divided into branch or relevant sector of industry, these are the key actors involved in briefing businesses about the methods they should put in place for alternance formation in their particular sphere of activity.
The “Point A” network has been developed on a national level by the chambers of commerce and industry. It provides guidance to employers in every step of alternance recruitment. Found all over France, local Point A branches give dedicated advice to employers who are interested in offering alternance employment.
Several institutions provide advice regarding the possible methods of alternance training: council chambers, neighbourhood youth centres, PAIO and, of course, Pôle Emploi are active in assisting an enterprise in the recruitment process.
The institutions involved in alternance training are also local actors in the orientation of the scheme and a source of information for recruiters.
So as to make the administrative formalities for the registration of alternance contracts easier, the Ministry of Employment has recently made several online tools available to employers on a state run internet site.
A potential employer can now download the required recruitment documents and register on-line the necessary forms.
An “alternance” contract is one under which a new worker, usually a person who is young or inexperienced (or both), combines working in the subject industry to gain practical experience with a vocational training course. This is a very attractive option for those businesses which are on the lookout new recruits. Additionally, the education of an employee in alternance also entitles the employer to avail of several financial supports and exemptions. These benefits are dependant on the type of contract concerned and the form of alternance training proposed.
A small business is entitled to a subsidy when hiring their first employee. This is not restricted to any particular sector or business. The subsidy ranges from €1,000 – €4,000.
The employer received the subsidy at the end of each quarterly period at a maximum rate of €500 per quarter.
In-kind donations may be deducted from the amount which is due out-of-quota.
Finally, the “bonus alternant” is relevant only to those businesses which employ at least 250 workers. In addition, a minimum of 5% of said workers must be apprentices, and a maximum of 7% be employed under alternance contracts.
These subsidies are designed to help disabled people to obtain a professional qualification. The level of subsidy available is dependant upon the type and length of the contract.
The author of this article, Eoin P. Campbell, is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified as a solicitor in 2007. His professional experience includes personal injury litigation, business law, the law of contract, employment law and European law. Eoin is currently lecturing in the law faculty of a prestigious university based in Lyon, France.
N.B. Please note that the information contained in this article is intended to be advisory only. If you intend to commence employing people in France you are advised to discuss the issues raised above and any concerns you may have with an employment professional.