Comparative Guides
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Results: 4 Answers
Labour and Employment
Dismissals and terminations
Must a valid reason be given to lawfully terminate an employment contract?
Employees may be terminated for, disciplinary personal cause (eg, simple, serious or gross misconduct), non-disciplinary personal cause (eg, poor performance) or economic reasons.

In any case, there must be proper and serious cause (‘cause réelle et sérieuse’) for the dismissal and the correct procedure must be followed.

The law does not define ‘proper and serious cause’. Judges will consider in each case whether there was proper and serious cause for the termination.

For more information about this answer please contact: Emilie Ducorps-Prouvost from Soulier Avocats
Is a minimum notice period required?
The notice period begins to run after notification of termination – that is, when the dismissal letter is presented at the employee’s address (or in case of resignation, when the resignation letter is presented at the employer’s address).

The length of the notice period (after the probationary period) is set forth in the applicable collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and generally depends on the employee’s classification:

  • For regular employees, technicians and supervisory employees (‘ETAM’), the notice period is generally one or two months, depending on the coefficient and/or the number of years of service.
  • For managerial employees/executives (cadres), the notice period is generally three months (maximum six months for certain categories of executives).

The employer may release the employee from his or her duties during the notice period, but his or her remuneration must still be paid.

In case of dismissal for serious or gross misconduct, no notice period applies.

There is also no notice period in case of termination by mutual consent (‘rupture conventionnelle’).

In case of economic dismissal, if the employee agrees to benefit from a specific public external relocation programme called the CSP, there is no notice period (but an amount equivalent to the employee’s salary, including social security charges, must be paid to the public unemployment agency).

For more information about this answer please contact: Emilie Ducorps-Prouvost from Soulier Avocats
What rights do employees have when arguing unfair dismissal?
If an employee is dismissed without real and serious cause, the judge may propose that the employee be reinstated. If the employee and/or employer refuses reinstatement, an indemnity payable by the employer will be granted to the employee.

In September 2017 the so-called Macron Ordinances introduced a scale relating to severance pay due in case of dismissal without real and serious cause. This scale sets minimum and maximum compensation thresholds based on the employee’s seniority (Article L1235-3 of the French Labour Code). Compensation is calculated in months of gross salary and capped at 20 months’ salary for employees with at least 29 years’ seniority. However, the caps do not apply in companies that usually employ fewer than 11 employees.

This scale does not apply if the judge finds that the dismissal is vitiated by one of the grounds of invalidity set out in the French Labour Code, such as the violation of a fundamental freedom, moral or sexual harassment, discrimination or dismissal of a protected employee (Article L1235-3-1 of the French Labour Code). If the employee is not reinstated, he or she is entitled to a minimum benefit of six months’ salary.

As of the time of writing, many employment tribunals are questioning this scale, arguing that it is contrary to international conventions, and are refusing to apply the compensation caps specified therein. A decision of the Court of Cassation (French Supreme Court) is expected in 2020 to settle this issue. For the time being, the future of the scale remains uncertain.

For more information about this answer please contact: Emilie Ducorps-Prouvost from Soulier Avocats
What rights, if any, are there to statutory severance pay?
The French Labour Code provides for a statutory severance payment for employees with at least eight months’ service and sets forth the following calculation method: one-quarter of the average gross monthly salary per year of seniority for the first 10 years of seniority and one-third thereafter.

CBAs also provide for severance payments in amounts which are generally more favourable for the employee than that set forth by the French Labour Code. If the amount is more favourable, it must apply in place of the statutory severance pay; however, CBA severance pay generally applies only for employees with at least two years of service. The method for calculating CBA severance pay is generally as follows:

percentage of gross monthly average salary x number of years of seniority

However, CBAs may provide for a different method for calculating severance pay, which will generally differ depending on the employee’s classification and/or status (ie, executive/non-executive employee).

In case of dismissal for serious or gross misconduct, no severance pay is due at the time of termination. There is no mandatory notice period.

In case of termination by mutual consent, the termination indemnity may be freely negotiated between the parties, provided that the employee receives a payment that is at least equal to the amount of severance pay that would be payable, as outlined above. There is also no mandatory notice period.

For more information about this answer please contact: Emilie Ducorps-Prouvost from Soulier Avocats