Global Payroll — 17 min
When you open up your recruitment plans to include remote employees, you give your company access to the world’s best talent. In this article, we will explore a subtopic of employing workers in France: statutory benefits for French employees and other common employee benefits in France.
France is the perfect example of a nation filled with highly educated professionals with quality experience working across cultures in a wide variety of industries. So many French companies are multinational, and employees are accustomed to communicating with colleagues and customers in English. In fact, France is now ranked above average in the EF English Proficiency Index.
Ambitious, growth-minded companies of all sizes can look to France to strengthen the quality of their recruitment pipeline and increase the diversity of their teams. But hiring a French contractor or employee without an owned entity in France is not as straightforward as hiring someone from your home country.
One of the most important considerations of hiring in France is complying with the statutory benefits required for French employees. If you want to attract and retain the best French talent, you’ll also need to consider the common and additional employee benefits that are expected or desired in the French market.
French employee benefits vary from those in other countries. While other European Union countries have similar mandated benefits, you need to be certain of the unique differences of benefits for employees in France.
This may seem complicated, but managing benefits for French employees can be simple. Once you understand what French employees expect and are entitled to, you can easily assemble a benefits package that could be the difference in a French candidate accepting your offer over a competitor’s.
This article will give you a clear understanding of the benefits you need to offer to attract the best French job candidates and remain compliant with French law.
All French citizens living and working in France are eligible for social security benefits. The French social security system is divided into five sections, covering different populations, from employees to students to the unemployed. As an employer, you’ll be concerned with the first section — the general scheme — which covers most employees.
Through the general scheme, French nationals receive health care coverage, as well as parental and family benefits through social security, which is paid out of contributions and tax deduction. Both employers and employees contribute, and the government manages the contributions.
If you have ever met a French national who has taken an entire month off for vacation during the summer, you won’t be surprised to learn that French workers are entitled to a minimum of five weeks’ paid holiday time a year.
More time off is often granted to long-term employees. Employees also get time off for family-related events. Autonomous executives whose working time cannot be predetermined also often get a lot of additional time off: however, they tend to negotiate an arrangement for a certain number of days worked every year.
Family-related leave entitles your French employees to the following:
France also observes 10 public holidays a year, although some of them are not mandatory days off. The only one that must absolutely be observed is May 1, or Labor Day. On top of those days off, French employees often receive more leave time as a result of the country’s RTT, or Reduction du temps de travail, which we will get into in detail in the next section.
See also: How to manage an unlimited PTO policy
No article on employee benefits in France would be complete without a discussion of the French work week. French employees famously enjoy a shorter work week than the workers in many other countries. All companies with more than 20 employees are required to observe a 35 hour week, but that doesn’t mean every French employee is working just 35 hours a week. Many French employees put in significant overtime.
However, if your French employees work more than 35 hours a week, you need to compensate them, either financially or with time off. Common overtime schemes in France are 25% of the hourly wage for the first eight hours of overtime worked during the week, and after that, 50%.
A more common arrangement involves trading hours for more days off during the year, or RTT (Réduction du temps de travail, or Reduction of working time). Because many employees do actually work longer work weeks, this means offering a certain number of compensatory days off during the year, in addition to existing leave entitlements.
This lets French workers be more flexible with their work hours, and while it may sound complex, you can establish your own standard arrangement and agree to terms before your French employee signs a contract. You and your new employee can negotiate how many days of leave you’d like to include, and you can even ask them to sign up for RTT days a certain amount of time in advance or avoid taking RTT altogether during certain busier seasons.
Even with the flexibility of RTT, there are some limits. Legally, French employees should not work more than an average of 44 hours a week for 12 consecutive weeks, more than 48 hours during any week, and more than 10 hours a day.
All French parents are entitled to leave for births and adoptions, although maternity, paternity, and adoption leaves differ.
Beginning with French maternity leave, you must give employees who give birth 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. The employee giving birth (and their doctor) will often decide when the parent will stop working, which can be before or after the birth.
Additional leave may be granted in special circumstances (if there are medical conditions such as pregnancy or birth complications). Multiple births qualify for additional time off (24 weeks of leave instead of 16). Additional weeks may also be granted for parents who have other children at home.
To be eligible for maternity leave, the employee must be registered with French social security for 10 months before giving birth and must have worked for the company for at least 200 hours of the three preceding months.
During maternity leave, most top French workers expect their full salary, but French law allows the amount of the daily maternity leave allowance to be equal to the average income over the last three months that preceded maternity leave. There is a cap to French maternity leave pay, a quarterly limit of €10,284, so some earners may take a pay cut. Employees who give birth are protected against termination while out on maternity leave.
Partners of employees who give birth don’t get as much time off, but they are still entitled to several days of paid leave. Partners receive 11 consecutive days off including weekends after a birth. If the family has twins, fathers get 18 days off.
Adoption leave is 10 weeks for one child and 22 weeks off if a family is settling in with more than one child. People with two or more children at home before adoption get 18 weeks off.
France has some of the most progressive laws regarding recognition and protection of LGBT rights. Parents in LGBT relationships are typically eligible for all parental leave benefits.
French law does not stipulate that each employee get a certain amount of time off for illness, but does allow for a certain number of paid sick days, as long as a doctor’s note is submitted to both the employer and the French social security administration within 48 hours of the first sick day.
The daily allowance for sick leave is 50% of the basic daily wage, but that number rises after a certain number of sick days. How much this increases is based on a number of factors, such as the time an employee has worked for a company, how many children they have, and your benefits package. You can find more information here.
Health benefits are part of the social security scheme in France, and most but not all medical costs are covered by the state. For full reimbursement, many employees have an additional private insurance policy, called a mutuelle.
Employers pay at least half the cost of the mutuelle under the law, but many top French employees may expect their employers to offer a full mutuelle as part of their benefits package, as well as coverage for partners and family members.
The French retirement pension system for employees has three components, two of which are mandatory: the basic retirement pension and the complementary retirement pension. Both employees and employers contribute to these pensions. The third kind of pension (additional pensions) are paid only by the employee.
You can offer an employer-paid private pension plan, although these plans are usually reserved for executives.
See also: Global Payroll Management Guide
French minimum wage is calculated monthly, rather than hourly. In 2021, the national minimum wage is €1,554.6 a month, or €18,655 a year. This is expected in 12 monthly payments, and is regularly revised.
While statutory benefits are important, many French workers will expect more than the basics. Below are a few other benefits you can offer to attract top talent.
French companies often buy their workers lunch. In France, when a company doesn’t have its own canteen, restaurant vouchers are often given to employees. You can charge the vouchers to a card or make them available on your employees’ phones. An employee can spend up to €38 a day in restaurant vouchers, and they can use them on weekends or holidays as well.
Remote work is still quite new in France. For remote employees, being able to go out to a cafe for lunch and see other people may be a benefit. They may prefer the traditional meal voucher route.
However, if you don’t have onsite employees who are receiving vouchers (remote and onsite employees must be treated equally), the law doesn’t mandate meal vouchers specifically be offered. So instead, you might try remote alternatives.
Many companies in France pay their workers a bonus known as the “13th month’.” This 13th month’s salary is intended to help French workers pay their taxes, and depending on the company, it can be disbursed annually, in December or January, or at intervals, with some being paid in June and the rest at the end of the year.
Because 13th month bonuses aren’t required by law, you have some discretion about when and how to disburse this bonus. That said, 13th month salary payments are included as part of your employee’s total gross salary and are taxed accordingly.
Make sure your workers have the tools they need to get the job done by providing them with the equipment they need for work. By providing them with a laptop, for example, you can make sure they’re prepared for work and their connection is secure and compliant with any cyber security regulations you’re facing.
It’s the role of an employer to make sure employees are enrolled in social security as well as the supplementary unemployment and pension schemes. This is something you’ll need to do if your employees have never been covered by French social security before. You can get started by contacting the National Center for Foreign Firms and completing all mandatory declarations. You’ll be paying social security contributions to this center as well.
French workers are protected by a lengthy and complicated labor code, which grants many rights — and imposes sanctions on employers who don’t abide by statutory requirements. For example, employers who ignore rules about working hours can face stiff fines, and some incursions into employee privacy (such as reading an employee’s email) may even be considered a criminal offense.
Hiring someone in France might seem daunting, but it’s not the epic task it seems. As the experts on global employment, Remote helps companies of all sizes provide first-class benefits packages to workers in France. We can help your company provide a variety of packages to attract top talent while remaining compliant with all applicable French and EU laws.
Would you like to know more about hiring workers in France? Head over to our France Country Explorer for a quick and easy guide to France, its labor laws, and payroll taxes. It will give you all the practical information you need, at a glance, to get you started with compliant hiring of your remote French workers.
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