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Probation period
in France.

SALARY PAYMENT IN Euro (EUR, €)

CONTRACT LANGUAGES French / English

PAYROLL TAX 29.50% – 31.30%

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Probation period in France – Overview

Probation periods, referred to as “Période d’essai” in France, are an important component of employment contracts. They allow employers and new employees a trial period to assess their compatibility and suitability for the role. In this article, we will delve into the specifics of probation periods in France, outlining their legal framework, the rights and obligations of both parties, and the benefits they present.

What is a Probation Period in France?

A probation period is a predefined timeframe at the beginning of an employment contract where both the employer and the employee can terminate the relationship with a shorter notice period than the standard termination notice. The duration of the probation period in France is strictly regulated by labor laws and varies depending on the position’s classification.

French Employment Contracts and Probation Periods

In France, it’s mandatory to include the probationary period terms in the employment contract, whether it’s a fixed-term contract (contrat à durée déterminée – CDD) or an open-ended contract (contrat à durée indéterminée – CDI). The contract must explicitly state the duration of the probation period and, if applicable, any renewal possibilities. 

The length of the probation period varies depending on the category of employee and the type of contract.

Video: French Employment Law

What is the Standard Probationary Period in France?​

The standard probationary period in France (informally known as the trial period) for the open-ended employment contract (CDI) is a maximum of:

  • two months for workers and employees ;
  • three months for supervisors and technicians ;
  • four months for managers/executives.

A probationary period must be expressly stipulated in the employment contract.

For the fixed-term contract (CDD) the probationary period depends on the length of the fixed contract:

  • for less than 6 months employment the probationary period is a maximum of 1 day/week worked up to a maximum of 2 weeks ;
  • for more than 6 months employment the probationary period is a maximum of 1 month.

Legal Rights of Probationary Employees in France

Probationary employees in France enjoy a range of legal rights designed to protect their interests during this trial period.

1. Equal Working Conditions and Benefits

Probationary employees are entitled to the same working conditions, minimum wage salary, and benefits as permanent employees (paid leaves) in similar positions. This ensures that probationary employees are not disadvantaged or treated as lesser employees during their trial period.

2. Protection from Arbitrary Termination

While the threshold for dismissal is lower during the probation period compared to permanent employment, arbitrary or discriminatory termination is still prohibited. Employers must adhere to a process, including providing notice and, in certain cases, a valid reason for the termination. 

3. Protection from Unfair Dismissal

Even during probation, employers cannot terminate an employee’s contract without a valid reason and proper procedure. Reasons for termination during probation must be related to the employee’s performance, capacity, or misconduct that justifies ending the working relationship.

4. Fair Procedure

If an employer intends to terminate a probationary employee’s contract, they must follow a fair procedure. This may involve:

  • Written Notification: The employee must receive formal written notification outlining the reasons for termination and the effective date.
  • Right to Explanation: The employee has the right to understand the specific reasons behind their dismissal and to potentially contest them.

5. Right to Challenge Dismissal

Probationary employees have the right to challenge their dismissal if they believe it was unfair or unjustified. They can:

  • Seek Advice: Consult with trade unions or employee representatives for support and guidance.
  • Negotiate Settlement: Employees can attempt to negotiate a settlement with the employer.
  • Take Legal Action: They have the right to take legal action through employment tribunals (Conseils de Prud’hommes) to contest the fairness of their dismissal.

Legal Obligations of French Employers

French employers have specific legal obligations when it comes to probationary employees. These obligations aim to ensure a fair and transparent process during this initial employment phase:

Respecting Maximum Durations

The duration of probation periods in France is regulated by law and varies depending on the employee’s job category (workers, technicians, managers, etc.). Employers must strictly adhere to the maximum probation periods specified for the relevant job category.

Clear Employment Contracts

The probationary period terms, including the exact duration and any renewal provisions, must be clearly outlined in the written employment contract.

Valid Reasons for Termination

Dismissal during a probationary period must be based on legitimate reasons related to the employee’s professional aptitude or suitability for the role. Employers cannot terminate a contract solely based on the employee’s probationary status.

Notice Periods

Employers must respect the contractually agreed notice period for termination, even during probation. This notice period is generally shorter than the standard notice period for permanent employees.

Fair Procedure

Employers should provide clear reasons for termination and, when possible, offer guidance and opportunity for improvement before dismissal takes effect.

Documentation

Employers should maintain proper documentation of any performance concerns, warnings, or counseling offered to the probationary employee. This documentation could be essential in any potential dispute.

Benefits of Probation Periods in France

While probation periods are optional in France, they offer significant benefits to both employers and employees. 

For employers, the probation period provides a practical mechanism to evaluate an employee’s performance, adaptability, and fit within the company culture before committing to a long-term employment relationship. This can lead to better hiring decisions, reduced turnover, and a more cohesive workforce.

For employees, the probation period offers a chance to familiarize themselves with the job duties, the team, and the overall working environment. It allows them to make an informed decision about whether the job aligns with their career aspirations and personal goals. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the probation period in France is a critical component of the employment relationship, governed by a comprehensive legal framework designed to benefit and protect both parties. By adhering to these regulations and approaching the probation period with a clear understanding of its purpose and potential, employers and employees can establish a solid foundation for a successful and mutually beneficial employment relationship

Can an employer extend the probationary period in France?

An employer can only extend the probation period once if the conditions and duration of an extension is expressly stipulated in the employment contract.

This would then mean that the maximum duration of the probationary period, including the extension, is:

  • four months for workers and employees ;
  • six months for supervisors and technicians ;
  • eight months for managers/executives.

Can I dismiss an employee during their probation period in France?

During the probationary period, either the employer or employee may terminate the employment contract at any time without compensation (unless otherwise agreed). However, if an employer plans to terminate a contract during the probation period, they must provide notice to the employee before termination, which cannot be less than:

  • twenty-four hours for less than 8 days of probation ;
  • forty-eight hours for between 8 days and 1 month of probation ;
  • two weeks for more than 1 month of probation ;
  • one month for more than 3 months of probation.

or the period stipulated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Do employees in France have to give notice during the probation period?

Yes. The employee must provide twenty-four hours’ notice if they have worked less than 8 days probation, or forty-eight hours’ notice if they have worked more than 8 days probation.

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FAQs

If an employer plans to terminate a contract during the probation period, they must provide notice to the employee before termination, which cannot be less than:

  • twenty-four hours for less than 8 days of probation ;
  • forty-eight hours for between 8 days and 1 month of probation ;
  • two weeks for more than 1 month of probation ;
  • one month for more than 3 months of probation.

or the period stipulated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Employees must provide twenty-four hours’ notice if they have worked less than 8 days probation, or forty-eight hours’ notice if they have worked more than 8 days probation.

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