If you’re getting a job in France you should make sure you know what you’re signing up for. Not just in terms of your duties and responsibilities, but also the obligations and benefits that come with it. This post will explain the differences between the different types of French work contracts you can expect to be offered.
The three main French work contracts
1) Temporary contract – Interim
An interim contract is a temporary position, usually short-term. As an intérimaire you work for an agency. This agency will then send you to work for another company for a limited period of time. This is known as a mission. Your mission ends either on a specified date, or if no end date is known, when the job needed doing has been completed.
There are of course both advantages and disadvantages to this type of work. Let’s start with advantages.
You have plenty of flexibility. Most missions go week to week meaning that if you’re fed up with what you’re doing you can simply finish the week and move onto something new. Of course doing this too frequently could cause your agency(ies) to become fed up with you in turn, but nevertheless it does make moving around easier.
In addition to the flexibility, you also earn a higher wage than if you did the same job on a different contract. This is because of the précarité d’emploi aka the job precarity. Basically, because you never know when your next mission will be you get paid more cash in case you need to get by without any work for a while. So if you’re not planning on being here for a long time, this type of position could help you have some extra money to travel and enjoy the culture.
A problem with this type of work is that competition for missions is fierce and you’re often battling for menial positions. Finding regular missions can be difficult due to the large number of people also looking for such work. Not only that, typical types of work with these contracts include warehousing, delivery driving, entry-level administration, reception work, and cleaning.
2) Fixed term contract – Contrat à durée déterminée (CDD)
This kind of contract is typically offered if you’re being hired to complete a specific job within a specific period of time. Often this is as a replacement for someone who is absent from work, whether on extended holidays, sick, or on maternity leave.
Your duration of the contract is specified from the outset, ending either on a specified date, or if no end date is known, when the job needed doing has been completed. At the end of your contract, it is possible for you and your employer to agree to renew it. It is only permitted to renew a CDD twice and these renewals may not exceed the maximum duration allowed by law. The maximum duration depends on the nature of the job in question, however in most cases it is 18 months. Full details here. If your contract exceeds the maximum duration permitted, you are entitled by law to request that your CDD be changed to a CDI, or permanent contract.
At the end of a CDD contract, you will receive a prime de précarité or job precarity bonus similar to interim work. This is equal to 10% of your total gross salary during the CDD. It’s worth noting however that if you go from a CDD to a CDI with the same company you will not receive this bonus. In order to receive your bonus your CDI contract cannot begin the day immediately following the end of your CDD. For example, if your CDD ends on July 14th 2016, you want your CDI to begin at least on July 16th 2016. If it begins on July 15th 2016 then you won’t receive the bonus. This also applies to interim contracts by the way.
3) Permanent contract – Contrat à durée indéterminée (CDI)
Of all the different types of French work contracts, this is the most sought after. If you sign a CDI contract you are being hired to perform a job indefinitely. The most important benefit of being under such a contract is how much easier it makes dealing with tricky aspects of life. As you have great job security, you are now seen to be in a much more stable position by outside organisations. With a CDI you will find it much easier to rent a house or apartment in your name, negotiate a loan from the bank, buy a car on credit, basically anything that is a big financial commitment will be facilitated by having a CDI. In fact, there are certain things which are almost, if not completely, impossible with any of the other types of French work contracts.
Of the three main types of French work contracts that you could be offered when getting a job as an expat in France, they all have their advantages and disadvantages. If you’re here for a short time such as on a gap year, and you want to travel round the country regularly and experience all the different cultures, then interim or CDD contracts are probably the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re looking to be in the land of cheese, wine, and baguettes here for a long time or even permanently, a CDI (permanent contract) is the best way to go.