Employment relationship under French Law – Q&A (1- Recruitment process)

In our day-to-day activities, we found out that our international clients were struggling with French employment law and its numerous specificities. Indeed, on many regards, French employment law may be totally different from the principle’s applicable in other countries.

Wishing to help our client at every step of the employment relationship, we gathered the most frequently ask questions by our international clients and answered it on this page.

During the recruitment process

  • Can I do background checks to make sure that I recruit the right candidate?

Under French law, employers can request background checks and references from candidates. However, both European and French legislation pay great attention to the respect of privacy.

Indeed, under the EU Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of individuals regarding the processing of personal data, employers are required to:

  • establish and maintain a balance between their operational needs and the applicants’ privacy rights;
  • ensure that the background check is justified and not unnecessarily intrusive to assess the applicant’s professional skills;
  • use reliable sources which are likely to provide relevant information directly connected to the vacant job position.

For example, under French law an employer cannot require applicants to provide information in respect of their criminal or medical records, unless it is necessary to determine their ability to perform the job.

  • What can I ask to the applicant during the pre-hiring interviews?

Under French law, employers can only collect information about candidates, which facilitates the assessment of their professional skills regarding the offered position. These professional skills are to be directly required for the position.

  • Is the use of an employment contract mandatory under French law?

French law does not require to have indefinite term employment contracts in writing. However, the applicable collective bargaining agreement may provide otherwise. Although there is no legal obligation to establish the contract in writing, it is highly recommended to do so since it is the only way to ensure the enforceability of restrictive covenants, define duties, agree on certain flexible working time schemes etc.

As opposed to indefinite term contracts, fixed-term, interim and part time contracts are only valid if set out in writing.

  • Is it possible to use bilingual contract?

Yes, employment contracts can be drafted in a bilingual version. However, in case of conflict between the French version and the foreign version, the French version will prevail.

  • Are there any mandatory clauses in the contract?

All individual employment contracts should be signed by a legal representative of the company and should specify:

  • For indefinite term contracts: Identification of the parties, professional qualification, position, job description, working time, working place, remuneration (including variable compensation, if any), employment start date, trial period (if any), the relevant CBA.
  • For fixed term contracts: same as above + the reason why the company is using a fixed-term contract; the date on which the contract is to end, or its minimum duration in case an exact termination date has not been fixed; the name and job description of the absent employee, if the reason for using a fixed term contract is to replace a temporarily absent employee.
  • Part time contracts

Same as above + indication that the contract is for part time work; the employee’s working hours, any conditions relating to possible changes in working hours; the amount of overtime permitted according to the relevant CBA or the company collective agreement.

  • Once the candidate is selected, what are the administrative formalities? 

First, once you decided to hire the candidate, you or your payroll provider should file a Hiring declaration “Declaration préalable à l’embauche” to the French social security Authorities (within 8 days prior the first day of work).

This declaration enables the employer and employee to be registered with the general social security system and the unemployment insurance scheme. It must be addressed to the URSSAF in whose jurisdiction the establishment of the company is located.

Then, it is necessary to:

  • enroll the employee into a compulsory supplementary pension institution and mutual insurance;
  • Organize a medical examination;
  • Add the newly employed worker to the company register;
  • Provide all documents that should be given to the new employee.