What is the statutory time-bar (in French “prescription”) to bring a matter before the French employment court?

In the event of termination of the contract (any claims relating to damages for unfair dismissal, damages for noncompliance with the procedure, damages for loss suffered), the time-bar period is of twelve months and starts from the notification of the termination.

That said, there are exceptions notably in the event of discrimination or harassment or dispute of the final statement of sums due.

Furthermore, any action in regard to payment of salary is subject to a three-year time-bar.

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How are salary levels determined in France?

The minimum salary is compulsorily set out by the applicable collective bargaining agreement. It would depend on the status and classification of the employees.

In the absence of an applicable collective bargaining agreement, there exists a minimum salary set out by the French statutory code (in French “SMIC”).

That said, the collective bargaining agreement would normally set out a more favorable minimum salary for each level of employee.

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How are paid holidays and public holidays calculated and taken in France?

Employees are entitled to circa 2.5 working days as holiday pay per month (i.e. 30 working days per year which corresponds to five weeks). Moreover, employees normally have 11 days corresponding to public holidays set out by the employment code over and above their entitlement in terms of paid holidays, depending on whether or not the public holiday falls on a working day. The paid holidays would be taken within a reference year running from 1 June to 31 May the following year.

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What are the working time rules in France and what is the most flexible method which could apply?

The standard working week is 35 hours and any hour worked over and above 35 hours would normally constitute overtime and paid at an increased rate. Alternatively, rest days (RTT) should be given in lieu in accordance with the provisions set out by the applicable collective bargaining agreement.

That said, the recent changes in Employment Law (which tend to extend the scope of collective negotiations) allow the employer to provide for more flexible provisions such as annualised working time in terms of days (in French “forfait jours”).

Thus, it would be important to verify the provisions of the applicable collective bargaining agreement or in the event that there are no provisions in the CBA in this respect, the employer could agree to a company-wide agreement which can now be implemented even with only one employee in the company.

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What is the minimum compensation to be paid to employees upon termination?

All depends on the form of termination i.e. whether it is a resignation, a dismissal/redundancy, a dismissal for serious or gross misconduct, or a mutual termination agreement.

In general, the applicable collective bargaining agreement would set out for more favorable provisions in regard to severance payment.

Pursuant to the French Employment Code, the minimum compensation for dismissal should be paid to any employee who has accrued eight months’ service within the company and amounts to ¼ of a month’s salary per year of service until 10 years of service and 1/3 of a month’s salary from 10 years of service.

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What is the difference between a mutual termination agreement (in French “rupture conventionnelle”) and a settlement agreement (in French “transaction”)?

The purpose of the two agreements is different – a mutual termination agreement is a form of termination of the contract whilst the purpose of a settlement agreement is to settle on an ongoing dispute between the parties following the termination of the employee’s contract of employment.

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In what circumstances can a redundancy (termination on economic grounds) take place and what is the applicable procedure?

In France, in order to make an employee redundant, the employer needs to be able to show that the position or duties carried out by the employee in question need to be removed for objective economic reasons such as major economic/financial difficulties, technological change, restructuring of the business necessary for the protection of the competitiveness of the company or termination of the activities of the company.

The procedure for one employee involves offering the applicable retraining programme (Contrat de sécurisation professionnelle or congé de reclassement), seeking re-deployment positions in France, summoning the employee to an initial meeting, holding the initial meeting and sending the redundancy letter and notification to the local employment authorities.

The procedure for redundancies of more than one employee is slightly more complex and the procedure to be followed would also depend on the headcount of the company.

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How can we terminate a contract of employment in France?

There are four main ways of terminating an employment contract in France, (a) a resignation (in French “demission”), (b) a dismissal (in French “licenciement pour motif personnel”), (c) a redundancy (in French “licenciement pour motif économique”) and (d) a mutual termination agreement (“rupture conventionnelle du contrat de travail”).

Each type of termination involves different procedural steps.

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