Understanding Labour law
What is it?
Labour law governs all the rights and duties of workers in France. It describes :
- the different types of employment contract and the conditions for terminating them,
- the rules relating to working time, salary, leave, retirement, etc.
Labour law allows you to know and enforce your rights in the professional sphere. It is enshrined in the Labour Code and is available for free online:
Who is it for?
What to do?
Learn the basics of labour law
- Salary: in 2021, the minimum wage is 10,25 euros/hour (gross minimum wage).
- Working time: the legal working time is 35 hours per week. Any hour of overtime must be paid. In some contracts, this duration can go up to 39 hours per week. In this case, the worker is entitled to RTT (reduction of working time).
- Retirement age: between 62 and 67 years old.
- Leave: the legal number of holidays is 2.5 days per month worked.
- Working hours: working hours must be respected and any absence must be justified. In the event of illness, a medical certificate must be given to the employer.
- Pay slips: it is important to keep all your payslips. They are proof of your activity throughout your life and are necessary when calculating the worker's pension.
- Discrimination: "distinction between persons on account of their origin, sex, family situation, pregnancy, physical appearance, surname, state of health, disability, genetic characteristics, morals, sexual orientation, age, political opinions, trade union activities, membership or non-membership, real or supposed, of a particular ethnic group, nation, race or religion" ==> It is prohibited!
Know your professional status
In France, there are several categories of workers. Depending on the categories, the rules may be different (employment contract, rights and duties of employers and employees).
Here are a few examples:
- Apprentices: they are both students and employees, they alternate between training weeks in a CFA (apprenticeship training centre) and work weeks in a company. They have an employment contract (apprenticeship contract) and a salary.
- Craftsmen: they do a manual trade and are their own bosses (for examples: baker, house painter, shoemaker, hairdresser). To work, the qualified craftsman must hold a CAP (Certificate of Professional Competence — or an equivalent diploma) or have at least 6 years of professional experience in their field.
- Traders: they must have a location to set up their business (shop, stall in a market, place for the installation of a truck, etc.). They can also choose to work for a commercial brand; in this case, they must purchase a franchise.
- Farmers: they are their own bosses. They own or rent their land/livestock.
- Civil servants: they are recruited through competitive examination, enjoy job security and are subject to civil service rules. Depending on their level of studies, they are divided into 3 categories: category A (baccalaureate + 3 years at University), category B (baccalaureat level) and category C (CAP level). Their salary depends on their level of qualification and their seniority. To be a civil servant, you must be of French or European nationality. On the other hand, it is possible to work in the public service as "contractual" without having French nationality.
- Employees: they work for a public employer (State, local authorities, etc.) or private companies. They depend on the Labour Code and hold an employment contract — concluded with the employer —, which defines their missions, their salary and their working time.
- Temporary employees: they work for a temporary employment agency and carry out short-term missions, either to replace an absent employee or to respond to an urgent need from the company. They have an employment contract with the temp agency and have their salary paid by the agency. The missions can sometimes be followed by a permanent recruitment from the companies.
- Seasonal workers: Their contract is concluded for the season or from date to date, for a maximum period of 8 months. Examples of trades: grape harvesting, picking, mountain guide, ski instructor, etc.
It is also possible to exercise an activity under two other somewhat separate statuses:
- Trainees: a "tripartite" agreement is signed between the trainee, the host organisation (company, association, etc.) and the educational establishment (school, university, etc.). If the duration of the internship is of more than 2 months (consecutive or not during the same year), the intern receives a bonus every month.
- Volunteers: volunteers put their time, skills and experience at the disposal of another person or organisation/association. They do not get paid but they can be reimbursed for certain expenses related to their activity (travel costs, material, etc.). Volunteers have a full-time, fixed-term contract. They are involved in a mission of general interest and receive an allowance.
Get your employment contract
All workers must have an employment contract that is proof of their activity and guarantees their rights. This contract describes the employee's tasks and prevents abuse by the employer. Depending on the statutes, there are different contracts:
- Apprenticeship or professionalisation contract: this is a sandwich course contract between training and work in a company. It can take the form of a fixed-term (CDD) or permanent contract (CDI).
- The Single Integration Contract (CUI) : this is primarily intended for people with difficulties.
- The Temporary Work Contract (CTT) or Interim: this is in fact a double contracts. One contract is concluded with the employer of the company and another contract is concluded with the temporary work/interim agency. The contracts are renewed for each new assignment.
- Fixed-term contract (CDD): it can last a maximum of 18 months and must contain the date of the end of the contract.
- The open-ended contract (CDI): this contract does not specify the duration of the hiring and is therefore the most stable type of contract.
There are several ways to terminate an employment contract:
The contract is for a fixed period and ends naturally, on the date of the end of the contract ==> the worker receives unemployment benefit.
Resignation: outside the trial period, resignation is possible if it is done in agreement with the employer or if it is linked to the employee's incapacity ==> the worker does not receive unemployment benefit, except in the absence of a notice period or if the worker has not been able to take all of their holidays.
The conventional termination: this is a free agreement between the employee and the employer ==> the worker receives unemployment benefit — subject to conditions.
Dismissal: the employer alone terminates the contract ==> when the dismissal is linked to a disciplinary reason, the worker does not receive unemployment benefit. On the other hand, if the dismissal has an economic or personal cause, the worker receives compensation.
At each end of contract, the worker receives:
- a work certificate
- a certificate for Pôle Emploi (Job Centre)
- a settlement of all outstanding accounts