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CDD and CDI Employment contracts in France

CDD FranceFinding work in France is not easy for most expats and there are raft of rules and paperwork to learn about.

Viki B, from the UK who now lives in Normandy says that she found a job with a French bank but her attempts to become a permanent member of staff were “subject to the CDD/CDI laws” in France.

CDD and CDI are contracts. In France the signed contract is paramount, without it you don’t really have a job. It wouldn’t matter if you turned up every day for 50 years and worked, got paid and retired – without the paperwork the law does not accept that you are an employee.

So, what is a French CDD or a CDI contract and when does each apply?

The CDI is a “Contract Duration Indeterminée” – essentially an open-ended contract, or permanent employee contract.

The CDD is a “Contract Duration Determinée” – a fixed-term contract, or temporary employee contract. These are the two main types of contract but by no means the only form of French employment contract. Employment contracts have to be drawn up by the employer and which type applies is determined by the conditions provided for by the law, the employer must be sure that the contract is correct for the circumstances.

CDD France

CDD Contract Duration Determinée (fixed-term contract)

A CDD contract can be issued by an employer who needs to replace an absent employee temporarily or needs to boost the workforce on a short term basis.

Often this type of contract applies to seasonal work for instance in the tourist industry, at Christmas, farms, vineyards etc. In principal the limit for a CDD is 18 months, but the contract can be renewed, allowing for a maximum term of 36 months.

There are various versions of the CDD that may be applied, for instance to those over 57 years old.

The CDD ends at the end of the written contractual period and no notice is required by the employer. If you want to terminate the contract prior to the specified date, technically you don’t have to put it in writing but it’s probably a good idea to do so. It is illegal for the employer to terminate the CDD before the written date.

The employer is accountable for paying an end-of-contract instability work bonus of 10% of the salary.

CDI France

CDI Contract Duration Indeterminée  (open-ended contract)

The French Code of Employment stipulates that some aspects have to be notified in writing to the employee but may not necessarily be specified in the contract. It is the right of the employer to request a copy of the contract in his own language but only the French document is legal.

A trial period can be written into the contract if both parties agree and only for a specified period – normally two weeks.

The contract includes detail such as:

The identity of the parties; place of work; title, grade, nature or category of the work for which the employee is employed or a brief description thereof; date of commencement of the contract; amount of paid leave to which the employee is entitled or, failing that, the procedures for allocating and determining such leave; length of periods of notice; information regarding the salary and the frequency of its payment; working hours: daily or weekly; collective agreements governing the conditions of employment.

France is famous for its employment law and firing an employee is notoriously difficult. French workers are far more protected than in most other countries and dismissals are time consuming and costly for employees.


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