Hiring international employees has the potential to create some misunderstandings as there are often differing cultures and expectations. This ranges from communication styles, working hour expectations, and ultimately understanding that no gestures can be universally practiced in workplaces. However, by educating ourselves on these common business practices business relationships can flourish, and alleviate any potential tensions that contrast in culture may bring.
It is also critical to understand that legislation may also differ between the countries, such as laws around social security and termination of employment. Knowing these differences before engaging in business relations will help avoid any surprises between yourself and your new international employee.
There are notable differences between the US and France in both culture and employment regulations. This article encompasses the key differences that a US employer should expect before and during the process of hiring French employees.
Here is a resource from the French government for overseas companies looking to hire in France, which we recommend reading in conjunction with this guide.
Hiring a Remote Worker in France
The official language is French, though the population learns English from a young age and many workers, particularly younger generations, will have working proficiency in English. It is, however, a sign of respect to show an attempt to speak the language. This doesn’t mean French employees will expect their US employer to know the language, however, an apology for not being able to speak the language and making a genuine attempt at it will place the US employer in a positive light.
Though both countries share the same working days during the week, the French population are particularly opposed to their work seeping into the weekends. This is evident in their enactment of a legal “right to disconnect” from work emails during weekends and outside of working hours. Though this may not apply to all US employers as this legislation only applies to companies with more than 50 people, it is still an indication of France’s emphasis on a work-life balance. Therefore, US employers should not become too frustrated if their French employee isn’t showing the same 24/7 style working ethic that is common among US workers, as it is primarily due to the working culture of France as a whole.
The work-life balance in France is stronger than the US, with an estimated 68% (16.4) of an employee’s day devoted to personal and leisure time on average. In comparison, the US enjoys 60%, or 14.4 hours away from activities away from work. Additionally, employers should expect many employees to take vacation around July and August (European Summer); therefore, a slow month is not unusual.
It is also less common to ask fellow employees about their personal lives, such as an employee’s children or social plans, as it is in the US. Though it is still possible to form friendships with colleagues, it usually takes a little bit longer than it does with US colleagues and French workers overall are more private during office hours.
What is the time difference to East Coast USA? West Coast USA?
For the East Coast, France is six hours ahead. For the West, France is 9 hours ahead.
How is this commonly dealt with?
Working hours overlap more on the East Coast with France. The morning of the East Coast will overlap with France’s afternoon working hours. It is important for US employers to utilize this time to communicate with their French employees as employees will not feel a responsibility to respond to emails once the working day is over.
The cross-over between the West Coast and France is not as convenient, but communication is still feasible if the US employer is able to start their day earlier and the French employee has a late start (which ensures a later finishing time to allow crossover).
What are the typical working hours in France?
France’s working style is very different from the US’s in terms of their operating hours. France’s employment has two types of workers. Workers are commonly referred to as white collars (cadres) and blue collars (non-cadres). White collar workers cover more office-based roles, whereas blue color workers are generally associated with people paid on an hourly basis. Typically, blue-collar workers work 35 hours, and extra hours need compensation. As white collars have an annual salary, the 35 hours don’t apply. For both types of workers, an employee cannot work more than 10 hours a day.
In an aim to battle unemployment rates, France has legislated for workers to only work 35 hours per week. This is almost a twelve-hour difference in working hours per week in contrast to the US, where an average employee will work 47 hours a week (though this will depend on what the role is). It is not illegal for an employee to work more than the specified 35 hours, but there is a maximum limit. To compensate employees for any hours worked above 35 hours per week, most collective bargaining agreements will provide for Reduction du temps de travail (RTT). These are additional days of paid annual leave. All employers are bound by a collective bargaining agreement, typically by industry, which will specify whether RTT applies and how much RTT is provided.
For more severe over time, it is possible to negotiate an allowance of up to 12 hours of work per day and 46 hours average per week. However, this agreement is only valid for 12 weeks. Overtime payment is still applied here, but it is less than the overtime that is paid by employers without this agreement in place.
Furthermore, the starting time for work isn’t strict in France. It is not unusual for a worker to start earlier at 7 am, or later at 10 am, as long as they complete the required hours per day.
France has also implemented legislation the ‘right to disconnect’. This means that employees have the legal right to avoid reading and responding to emails outside of work hours. This is a further indication of France’s stricter adherence to the work-life balance.
How do you recruit employees in France?
France commonly utilizes indeed.com and monster.fr. For younger people, it has become more popular to engage in ‘contrat d’alternance’ which is the word for studying and working part-time, with eventually being offered full-time work at the end of their studies.
How do you interview remote workers in France?
In France, remote workers are generally interviewed using a video call, which is similar to the US process.
US employers should note that remote work in France is not as popular as it is in the US, which means the US employer may need to prepare some information as to how remote working will occur.
Are French resumes different from American resumes?
French and US resumes are relatively similar overall. French workers usually refer to resumes as CV’s (Curriculum Vitaes). French CV’s will usually include age, nationality, photo, hobbies, and even marital status. This is in contrast to the US, where it is illegal to ask an applicant to include these factors.
French CV’s are also usually two pages long, which is longer than the standard US resume. It is also not unusual for a French CV to include a photo of the applicant.
Is making an offer to an employee in France different from hiring in the US?
French employment regulations are very different from the US. The idea of at-will employment is utterly alien to French people. The process for hiring and ending employment is heavily regulated. In France, it is a legal requirement for an employee to receive a written contract, and it is not binding unless it is in French (with an attached bilingual translation also allowed). A written contract is also critical as France has two different types of contracts with different notice periods and termination processes.
CDD Contract Duration Determinée (fixed-term contract)
- A CDD contract is the preferred choice if an employer needs to fill in a position temporarily, or needs to increase their workforce on a short-term basis. It is also appropriate for seasonal work. The maximum length of a CDD is 18 months, but it can be renewed up to 36 months. It is illegal to terminate the employee before the written date; this would require the employer to pay the full remaining salary due under the CDD. At the end of the CDD, the employer is accountable for paying an end-of-contract instability work bonus equivalent to 10% of the salary paid during the term of the CDD.
- An employer can also use a CDD as a temporary measure in place of hiring someone straight onto a CDI. For example, you can hire someone on a six or 12-month CDD and then move to CDI once both parties are happy to commit.
CDI Contract Duration Indeterminée (open-ended contract)
- A CDI is effectively permanent employment with standardized terms and notice periods.
- This contract must include the following: The identity of the parties; place of work; title, grade, nature or category of the work for which the employee is employed or a brief description thereof; date of commencement of the contract; the amount of paid leave to which the employee is entitled or, failing that, the procedures for allocating and determining such leave; length of periods of notice; information regarding the salary and the frequency of its payment; working hours: daily or weekly; collective agreements governing the conditions of employment.
- It is a permanent contract, more applicable to full-time employment.
- A probationary period can be written in but must be agreed upon between the employer and employee. Because of the difficulties with terminating employment in France, employers are recommended to have a maximum probation period permissible.
A medical exam for the employee is required for all workers hired in France, whether a local resident or ex-pat on assignment. It is considered the company’s responsibility to make sure that the new hire is in good health before beginning work. The employer must arrange the medical exam pre-employment and failure to offer a medical check to employees can result in penalties.
Paying Remote Employees in France
Do French employees get paid differently to US employees?
In France, the employer is responsible for deducting both the employer and employee contributions to social security. The process is therefore more straightforward than the US.
Up until 2019, French employees were paid gross and would then file their own individual income tax at the end of the tax year. But this has changed to having income tax and employee social security deducted at source by the employer.
How often do French employees get paid/can we pay bimonthly?
Paying on a monthly basis is legislated, but if the employee is a seasonal or temporary employee they are paid on a bimonthly basis.
What are some common benefits that foreign employers offer remote employees in France?
Remote work inherently provides many benefits, including increased productivity, shorter (if any) commute times, flexible work scheduling, and more savings for the employer and employee. Many foreign employers provide additional allowances to their employees such as payment of business expenses, internet and telecom allowances, and the ability to work from a co-working space if so desired. Employers regularly pay a stipend for reasonable expenses such as travel where necessary.
France also has a particular working from home legislation. If you ask an employee to work from home, you have to pay an allowance that covers internet, utilities and is generally around 100 euros that employers deduct from the payroll. The contract must indicate this provision.
More information can be found here.
Can employers pay a stipend for expenses?
Every benefit that you give to an employee is taxed and is called a benefit in kind. This means that everything the employer pays to the employee needs to be grossed up. For example, if an employer gives 200 euros for health allowance, they are going to actually have to provide the 200 euros plus the taxed amount on top.
How is work equipment provided to remote employees in France?
Employers can provide their employees with all the equipment they need to do their job, provided it is genuinely for work usage.
For example, at Shield GEO, we ensure our remote employees have the correct equipment to complete their day-to-day tasks efficiently. We provide our employees with a laptop, keyboard and mouse, and a headset for conferencing. At our employee’s primary place of work, we also provide a monitor, desk, ergonomic chair, and desk lamp.
Can employers pay remote workers in France in USD?
Salary payments in France must be set and processed in Euro.
For more information, please read the related FAQ: Can we set the local salary in foreign currency?
French payslips must be in French, not English. This means the US employer must rely on applications that generate French payslips. For less than 20 employees, the French government recommends Tese, which is a tool created by the France social security administration. Alternatively, private payslip software is recommended.
The employer must keep a duplicate of the payslip (in paper or electronic form) for a period of five years.
Key Terms Explained
- N° Séc.Soc.: Social Security Number
- Matricule: Employee ID, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a number, and can instead be a word.
- Niveau: Grade
- Qualification: White or Blue Collar
- Catégorie: Category of cadre
- Emploi: Title
- Conv. coll.: Collective Agreement Provide
- SIRET: Business Number
- APE/NAF: Activity Code of Company
- Salaire mensuel: Monthly Salary
- Prime variable (Rém.Complt): Commission type of bonus
- Indem. apport d’affaires: Performance Bonus
- Régul. 1/10ème CP mensuelle: 1/10th of the compensation for leave, usually applicable for white collar workers with more than 10 years of working for the company.
- Réserve Financière CCN: Specific to people hired through an employer of record service such as Shield GEO. This is money put aside because the employee is working under this type of contract. It is essentially a financial reserve. This feature is not typical of a French payslip, but specific to a type of employment. It can otherwise be considered as the indemnity for the precarity of the job.
- Sante: ‘Health’
- Sécurité Sociale – Maladie Maternité Invalidité Décès: Mandatory social security for health, maternity, disability, and death.
- Complémentaire Incapacité Invalidité Décès: Complimentary cover for disability and death.
- Complémentaire Santé: Remaining 30% of health insurance. Note that the employer pays for the top SS but the employee and employer share the bottom SS equally.
- Accidents de Travail – Maladies Professionnelles: Accident at work/onsite (though not necessarily always onsite). Mandatory workers compensation, covered by the employer.
- Retraite: Pension
- Sécurité Sociale plafonnée: Social security with a ceiling
- Sécurité Sociale déplafonnée: Social security without a ceiling
- Complémentaire Tranche 1: Complementary pension, there is a ceiling equal to the ceiling of SS.
- Complémentaire Tranche 2: Amount above the ceiling for Tranche 1, but not more than eight times the amount of the SS. For example, say the ceiling is 3000 euro, Tranche 1 contributions are then limited to 3000 euro, whereas Tranche 2 is whatever your salary is above 3000 euro, but less than 8 x 3000. (Note this is a hypothetical example and not the actual ceiling amount).
- Contribution d’equillibre technique: Professional tax on equipment
- Famille: This is a part of SS and essentially covers any cost-related to having a family, eg. covers the cost of children going back to school, or for people who need to send their children to the cafeteria but won’t be able to cover the cost with their income.
- CSG déductible de l’impôt sur le revenu: The general social security contribution applicable to all types of income, e.g. investment.
- CSG/CRDS non déductible de l’impôt sur le revenu: CRDS for debt – the tax added to reduce the overall social security debt
- Exonerations de cotisations employeur: Exclusions if there are any
More information on a French payroll can be found here.
PTO and Holidays in France
How much PTO do remote employees in France get?
The standard is at least 34 days made up of PTO and RTT.
French employees get five weeks of PTO per year (often listed as 30 days but this includes Saturdays). For a Monday to Friday working week, it translates to 25 days.
They also receive something called ‘Reduction du temps de travail’ (RTT), which is a legal incentive the employer must provide because of union negotiations on working hours. This is referred to as RTT days. The logic behind the RTT days is that an employee must never work more than 218 days each year, but this will change per year due to public holidays and weekends.
France has RTT to compensate for the extra hours worked by the French employee. Essentially if you want the employee to work more hours, you need to give them RTT. The calculation is as follows:
Though this changes every year, it will usually add at least nine days extra to the already existing leave.
If the employee does not take leave within the year, it carries over. Two of the five weeks must be taken continuously between April and October, but never more than four weeks in a row (i.e. the employee must take the fifth week separately).
If the employee has accrued less than five RTT days by the end of the calendar year, this can carry over into the following year. But any unused RTT above five days must get paid out through the payroll.
More information can be accessed here.
Can we offer unlimited PTO in France?
No. All leave in France must be tracked and accounted for if the employer wishes to offer more than 34 days paid leave. The employer must still demonstrate that the employee has consumed their annual quota of paid leave.
Do I have to track PTO?
Yes, All leave in France must be tracked and accounted for.
How does sick leave work?
Sick leave must be authorized by a doctor, who will provide the employee with a standard sick leave form (arrêt de travail), a copy of which the employee must give to the employer within 48 hours. There is no minimum or maximum amount of sick leave.
The employer and the French Government share the cost of sick leave pending on the collective bargaining agreement.
For example, using the SYNTEC collective bargaining agreement rules and their life/disability insurance:
- The employer maintains 100% of the EE’s salary for up to three months but only after one year of service.
- Social Security pays benefits to the employee for 50% of salary, capped at €43.80 per calendar day, from day four.
- Life & disability coverage pays benefits to the employee (or to the employer if the pay is maintained) for 80% of salary, not capped, as long as sick leave is prescribed, from day 30 (or day four if an accident or hospitalization has occurred).
What are the national public holidays in France?
Please note that the specific dates below are for the 2020 calendar:
- New Year’s Day (Jour de l’an): January 1
- Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques): April 13
- Labour Day (Fête du premier mai): May 1
- World War II Victory Day (Fête du huitième mai or Jour de la Victoire 45): May 8
- Ascension Day (Jour de l’Ascension, 40 days after Easter): May 21
- Whit Monday – also known as Pentecost Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte): June 1
- Bastille Day (Fête national): July 14
- Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Assomption): August 15
- All Saints’ Day (La Toussaint): November 1
- Armistice Day (Jour d’armistice): November 11
- Christmas Day (Noël): December 25
How many paid public holidays are there per year?
The employer pays the employee on all national public holidays unless the holiday is on the weekend. On the weekend the employer doesn’t have to pay the employee, but they can if they want.
What happens if my employee works on a French public holiday?
Where a public holiday falls on a weekend, employees may be given an extra day of paid holiday in lieu, but this is not obligatory.
What is the 13th month pay?
The 13th month pay is usually paid to an employee around December, and it doubles the month’s salary. This amount is determined by the company and depends on the employment contract. It is a very common payment in France’s working culture, and this benefit has to be stated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement or in the employment contract. The pay can also be negotiated. Though roughly 90% of companies implement the 13th month pay, this is further likely if the contract is open-ended.
Social Security in France
The social security system in France is quite complex, with the employer usually paying about 50% of the salary of the employee in social security costs. Here is a link with a summary of what an employer and employee usually contribute to social security costs.
Does the employer have to pay SS? What does it cover?
Social security is a requirement for all employers, and the system is complex with multiple contribution rates. Employer contributions are between 47.5% to 50% of the base salary and can vary based on the salary, location, and personal circumstances of the employee.
Employer Social Security costs depend on the salary level.
The URSSAF (Unions de Recouvrement des Cotisations de Sécurité Sociale et d’Allocations Familiales) is the primary social security office in France.
The CSG (Contribution Sociale Généralisée) is the general social security contribution applicable to all types of income e.g. investment.
The branches include health insurance (hospital costs, medicines, consultations), the retirement pension branch (based on the company online declarations), the occupational risk branch (covering accidents at work), and the family branch (covering birth, childcare, allowances for education and housing). These four branches form the general scheme of the SS.
Additionally, for health insurance, the employers in the private sector have an obligation to subscribe and offer to their employee complementary health insurance. This is because the social security covered health insurance does not cover everything. In principle, membership in this collective health supplement is compulsory for the employee. However, the law provides for cases of exemption from employee membership, especially if they can benefit from a more advantageous plan like the Solidarity Health Supplement.
Pension insurance is the basic retirement scheme for employees. More information can be found here.
Contribution for work accidents is the responsibility of the employer, and the rate is set by Carsat, which is France’s pension insurance and occupational health fund. Relevant information is accessible here.
Family allowance contributions are exclusively paid by the employer, and are calculated on the total remuneration of the employee. More information can be found here.
Does the employee have to pay SS? What does it cover?
Employee contributions are approximately 23% of gross pay. Employee contributions comprise of the additional pension amount, additional contribution for sickness, the CSG and the CRDS. The CRDS payments differ from the CSG as they are not deductible from taxable income. The CRDS tax is to cover the gap in the social security budget.
For more information on the social security obligations of the employer and employee, the link is here.
What is the 401K equivalent for remote employees in France?
401k isn’t mandatory, but there are mandatory pension funds (AGIRC and ARRCO schemes) on top of the basic pension provided by Social Security, which is calculated in points. Every year, the amount of contributions paid is converted into points. The pension an employee receives will depend on the number of points acquired throughout their career on their retirement age.
- ARRCO is for all non-cadre EEs (regardless of their salary) and all cadre (executive) employees (for the first €3,311/month of their salary)
- AGIRC is for all cadre employees for the part of their salary over €3,311/month
French employees often also add voluntary amounts to other funds. Voluntary payments are, however, usually organized by the employee.
Do French employees need health insurance? What does it usually cost?
Social security covers health insurance, but it is the employer’s responsibility to arrange this through the payslip. Up to 70% of medical costs are covered, with the remaining 30% able to be covered by private insurance.
There is one level of coverage provided by the French National Health Insurance (NHI) program, but a law was passed in 2016 requiring employers to offer Private Medical Insurance (PMI) as well. The PMI coverage is needed to make up for the percentage of outpatient care (30%) and inpatient care (20%) that is not paid by the NHI coverage. One quirk to be aware of is that this mandatory PMI premium must be split between the employer and employee, and the employer has to pay at least 50% of the premium (but can pay more). This is organized through the payroll and is essentially a part of the social security deductions.
For more information, click here.
Terminating Remote Employees in France
Are there probation periods in France?
Probation periods are standard in France and will usually last between one to three months. For more senior positions, three months is more likely to occur. Depending on the collective bargaining agreement, the probation can extend up to five months. During this time, both the employee and employer can terminate the employment at any time, subject to the notice period provided by the Law or the CBA. Given the difficulties of termination, we do advise US employers to use the maximum allowance probation period. While a US employer may technically implement a more extended probation period in the contract, French law is vigilant in protecting employees who have been hired by employers abusing the probationary period to hire someone temporarily. The employee can consequently argue for compensation.
Is there ‘at will’ termination in France?
There is no ‘at will’ termination in France. There are usually only two reasons the employer will be allowed to terminate in the eyes of French law:
- Economic dismissal (e.g. the company is performing poorly and needs to reduce the number of employees or shut down the company) or;
- Personal dismissal (e.g. the employee is underperforming or has committed a fault).
Both are difficult to prove, especially for foreign employers with remote staff. The most common way to end employment is a mutually agreed termination known as a “rupture conventionnelle”.The following steps must be strictly observed by the employer to arrive at an amicable termination:
- One or several meetings are held to determine the conditions of termination, during which either party can be assisted by a council. The parties can negotiate on the terms of termination such as severance and gratuity. Historically this negotiation could be complicated because of the massive variance in settlements which might be agreed by the courts. However, since the advent of the Macron reforms, there is more clarity on the minimum and maximum compensation due to an employee in a rupture conventionnelle (otherwise known as a mutually agreed termination).
- Once an agreement is reached between the employer and employee, both fill out and sign a standard two-page government form. Both parties have two weeks during which they can change their mind.
- After these two weeks, the employer sends the form to the Work Inspectorate known as Direccte, who has 15 open days to decide whether the process was compliantly followed. If the Direccte feels the process has been incorrectly followed, for example, the employee wasn’t given the right amount of time to decide, Direccte will reject the application.
- If they approve it or don’t answer within the deadline, the employment contract ends at the later of the end of the 15 open days or an agreed-upon date. If they reject it, the procedure needs to be redone from scratch. If the indemnity is not below the minimum legal requirement, it is unlikely that they will reject it.
If the employer doesn’t follow these steps and timeframes precisely, it can void the termination process, meaning the employee is still officially employed and the process must start again.
Do you have to pay for severance in France?
There is statutory severance pay for French employees employed for more than one year. Severance is based on average (including variable) pay. For French employees under Collective Bargaining Agreements and cadre-level EEs, severance pay is one third of an average month’s salary per year of employment. There is also a general market practice for the severance amount to be around three months’ worth of salary.
To calculate annual leave payout (indemnité de congé payé), there are two statutory formulas. The employer must assess both and then choose the one which is more favorable to the employee.
More information can be accessed here.
Is it difficult to terminate an employee in France?
For a US employer used to at-will employment, the process for termination in France is incredibly difficult and costly if not processed according to the rules. Also, the consequences can be financially significant. A US employer must therefore exercise great caution during the termination process. The overall employment and termination processes have a great weight on protecting the employee over the employer. It is something that the employer needs to plan ahead as there is nothing similar to the US concept of at-will termination.