Employment Contracts in France: What You Need to Know
Wondering what the difference is in France between a permanent work contract and a temporary or seasonal one? Before you sign, learn more here.
8 min read
Planning to move to France and looking for work? Whether you’re trying out life in France temporarily or looking for something permanent, this article will help you navigate the different types of work contracts you might encounter. Read on to get an overview of the main types of French employment contracts and how they work.
Permanent contracts: CDI
The French labor code defines permanent employment as “a contract with no time limit, fulfilled on a full-time or part-time basis between employer and employee.” In France, permanent contracts (known as “contrat à durée indéterminée,” or CDI) are the most common way for people to be employed. They offer professional stability and various benefits such as paid vacations, as well as make it easier to apply for bank credit or loans.
Either the employer or the employee can terminate a permanent contract. This can happen due to a layoff, resignation, or retirement, or both sides can simply agree to end the contract. This is referred to as a "mutually agreed termination of contract." In France, as well as the standard or common-law permanent contract, there are also five other contract types that fall under this category. Let’s look at those more closely.
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Temporary contracts, known as CDII, generally follow the same rules as a standard permanent contract. The only difference is that they apply to temporary work. The contract is signed between the temporary worker and temp agency on behalf of a third-party company. We’ll cover temporary or seasonal work in more detail later on.
Launched at the end of 2020 by Adecco, a leading recruitment company, the Learner contract (“CDI apprenant”) improves on the temp version in three ways:
- Training: From the first day of the contract, temp workers on Learner contracts are enrolled into co-operative training programs. This makes it possible for them to obtain a professional certificate like a diploma or professional title while also gaining work experience.
- Commute: The travel rules are friendlier in Learner contracts, with a maximum distance of 20 to 50 kilometers between home and the place of work, instead of the CDII standard of 50 kilometers.
- Pay: Employees are guaranteed a minimum monthly salary, which is set according to the workplace’s policies. In the case of a classic CDI contract, the salary amount must be at least equal to the minimum wage.
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Part-time work contracts for employability purposes
For people who are struggling to find work or stay employed, so-called “contracts for employability purposes” (“contrat de travail à temps partagé aux fins d’employabilité” in French) are intended to bridge the gap. This type of contract was created in 2018, at the suggestion of companies that specialize in finding roles for people who need non-traditional employment structures. The main goal: strengthening professional inclusion. This contract allows employees to hold successive full-time positions with different employers, or to hold multiple part-time contracts with more than one employer. First implemented as a pilot project until December 31, 2021, the initiative has now been extended until the end of 2023.
Work site contracts
Often seen in the construction and shipbuilding industries, work site contracts are used when a company hires workers for a specific project. At the end of the project, the employer has the right to end the contract. The employee is then entitled to claim a severance package and unemployment benefits.
Inclusive work contracts for seniors
In France, there is also a certain type of open-ended contract aimed at people aged 57 and over who are struggling to find or maintain employment. As with the contracts for employability purposes, the main goal is professional inclusion.
Fixed-term contracts (“contrat à durée déterminée,” also known as CDD) are used for a set period of employment. They’re intended for specific temporary situations or tasks, which must be clearly laid out in the contract. Companies can use fixed-term contracts to temporarily fill an open role or increase their business activity without committing to hiring a permanent employee. There are important restrictions, too: Using a fixed-term contract to fill a permanent position that’s part of a company’s usual ongoing activity is strictly not allowed. In cases like those, the employee should be offered a permanent contract.
There are several sub-types of fixed-term contract:
- Fixed-term contracts for a specific purpose, largely used for recruiting engineers or executives for project-based assignments.
- "Professional player" fixed-term contracts, specifically for professional video game players employed by a company with ministerial approval, mainly for their paid participation in video game competitions.
- "Senior" fixed-term contracts, set up to help people aged 56 and over return to work. The person must have been registered as a job seeker for more than three months or have a personalized redeployment agreement (“convention de reclassement personnalisé,” or CRP) to qualify for this type of contract.
- Integration contracts, for unemployed people experiencing social and professional barriers — for example, young people under the age of 26, disabled workers, or beneficiaries of Active Solidarity Income (“revenu de solidarité active,” or RSA).
As with temporary contracts, interim work contracts should only be used when organizations have a specific, short-term need. The difference is that people employed under interim contracts are recruited and paid by a third-party temporary employment company or temp agency. This interim agency hires the person for a limited period on behalf of the client company. This is then referred to as an interim job.
For each interim job, a provisional contract needs to be signed between the agency and the client company, as well as a contract between the interim agency and temporary worker. This second contract specifies the details of the job, the agreed salary, working hours, and the number of paid holidays.
With part-time contracts, the employee works fewer hours each week than a full-time employee — more precisely, they work less than the full-time hours set by the company, whether legally or contractually. Part-time hours can apply to all types of permanent, temporary, or interim contracts. It should be put in writing, specifying:
- the employee’s qualifications
- details about the salary
- minimum working hours
- cases where working hours may be modified
- how any possible modifications will be made
- the framework and terms for any possible overtime hours (beyond the hours of the part-time contract)
In principle, part-time employees can work for several employers, as long as they don’t work more hours in total than the legal maximum. Within certain limits, part-time employees can also be requested to work overtime. If need be, these added hours come with extra pay.
Work-study contracts are available to young people between the ages of 16 and 25 (although there can be exceptions!). They’re used as part of work-study training, combining education at a training center and periods where that learning is put into practice at work. Employees with work-study contracts alternate between attending classes and working hands-on in a company. At the end of their contract, not only will they have plenty of work experience, but also a diploma, certificate, or similar qualification.
In France, there are sub-types of work-study contracts:
An apprenticeship contract, either permanent or temporary, allows people aged 16-25 and/or job seekers over 45 to learn a new profession. The apprentice learns on the job as well as attending theory-based classes. At the end of the training, apprentices earn a diploma or certification registered with the National Directory of Professional Certifications (“Répertoire national des certifications professionnelles,” or RNCP), ranging from a vocational qualification to Masters level or higher.
Professional training contracts
A professional training contract is another type of temporary or permanent work-study contract. It’s valid for a period of six to 12 months and is available to young people aged 16-25, job seekers, and people aged 26 and up who are receiving benefits and want to earn a recognized professional qualification.
Single integration contracts
For people who are struggling to find work, single integration contracts (“contrat unique d’insertion,” or CUI) can help. Employees on this type of contract benefit from training and/or professional support, and employers receive state financial assistance. Here, there’s a distinction between employment support contracts (“contrats d’accompagnement dans l’emploi,” or CUI-CAE), which apply to the nonprofit sector, and employment initiative contracts (“contrats initiative emploi,” or CUI-CIE), aimed at the private sector.
Specific work contracts
Finally, depending on your age and qualification, you may be offered other types of specific work contract, such as:
- Seasonal work contracts which, as the name suggests, are for seasonal work. This applies to work that takes place at the same time each year, such as in agriculture or tourism.
- Educational commitment contracts (“contrat d’engagement éducatif,” or CEE), are aimed at people who occasionally lead or supervise minors in group-based care, such as at leisure centers and summer camps. This type of contract has specific conditions for the working hours, breaks, and amount of pay, which are different from the ones set by standard labor laws.
- Intermittent employment contracts, which always involve alternating periods of work and time off, and which can be used either for permanent or temporary business needs. These contracts are mainly used in sectors with unique schedules, for example, in the performing arts, schools, seasonal businesses, or tourism.
- Harvesting contracts, which are a specific type of seasonal employment contract. These contracts are for employees who have been recruited to work during the harvest — for example, picking grapes or carrying sacks and baskets — or to maintain and clean equipment.
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