Employment relationships and conditions in France are extensively regulated by legislation, mainly in the form of the Labour Code (Code du Travail). The Code contains almost all statutory provisions related to individual and collective employment matters and is continuously added to and amended as new laws, regulations and decrees are adopted. Case law interprets the Labour Code.

The Social Security Code (Code de la Sécurité Sociale) deals with matters such as benefits for employees on sickness, maternity or paternity leave. The Penal Code (Code pénal) is relevant in some areas, such as non-discrimination, and health and safety.

Collective agreements are another key source of French employment regulation. Industry-level collective agreements exist in most sectors and cover the great majority of employees (they are often made binding on all employers and employees in a sector by the Government). Company-level collective agreements are negotiated mainly in larger companies.

Other important sources of law are individual employment contracts and the “internal regulations” that companies and establishments with 50 or more employees must draw up, dealing with matters such as health and safety, and discipline.

Broadly speaking, where there is any disparity or conflict between the terms of the Labour Code, collective agreements and the employment contract, the provisions that are most advantageous to the employee apply. The terms of company-level collective agreements take precedence over those of industry-level collective agreements, except in a small number of fields such as minimum pay rates. In a number of important areas, such as many aspects of working time and leave, the Labour Code lays down a core set of rules and leaves many other issues almost entirely to collective bargaining (primarily at company level) with back-up rules applying only in the absence of a collective agreement.

This topic refers to employment law in the private sector only.

Temporary COVID-19 Crisis Measures (as at 7 May 2020)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the French government has taken a number of temporary measures affecting some of the issues dealt with in this topic. Notably, in certain sectors deemed vital for the continuity of the economy and for public safety, it has increased the maximum limits on daily and weekly working hours (see under Normal and Maximum Hours) and allowed more derogations from the rules on daily and weekly rest periods (see under Rest Breaks and Rest Periods). Further, across the economy, employers can in certain circumstances require employees to take some of their annual leave at specific times (see under Annual Leave). In addition, the statutory rules and procedures on collective bargaining (see under Collective Bargaining and Collective Agreements) have been streamlined in the case of collective agreements on measures to address the effects of the crisis.

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