For Brits wishing to work in Paris

Brexit spells the end of Freedom of Movement! If you are thinking of moving to Paris for work you currently have until end January 2020 (this “leave” date may change following the General Election results on the 12/12!). This article aims to offer practical information about working in France. If you need to know about Brexit and your rights to live and work in France, see our other article “Brexit: For working Brits in France“.

The Eurostar has facilitated crossing the Channel with 11million+ passengers in 2018 and Eurotunnel transporting 2,660,414 cars in the same period.  Although only a short distance away, not everything is the same! Below are some pointers if you are considering a move to work in Paris.

  • Salaries are often paid over 13 months and this will be confirmed in the convention collective (the collective bargaining agreement) that applies to each sector of activity. The idea of the 13th month was originally to pay your taxes. Since January 2019 taxes are deducted at source as in the UK. When you negotiate your salary, discuss your annual salary taking into account that each month you may normally get a 13th part, not a 12th. The 13th month is “generally” paid half in June and the rest in January. The 13th month will likely disappear over time once PAYE culture is firmly entrenched. See Fiche de Paie : ce qui change avec le prélèvement à la source
  • French salary slips are long! Since January 2017 employers can send electronic pay slips. It won’t change the length of slips, but it does help dematerialisation!
  • French public transport is great value! In the UK a travel loan for annual season tickets is considered an advantage, less expensive than monthly tickets. In France 50% of your public transport costs (carte Navigo in Paris) are reimbursed by your employer. It is a legal obligation! If you live in zone 5 (IDF) you will pay 827,20€ per year (2019) of which 50% is reimbursed (@4/2019 413,60€ is the equivalent to £357,75 per year). The same from Croydon (zone 5) to central London costs £2,400 (2775,22€ @ 04/19 a whopping difference of 2361,62€!). Dematerialisation: You can now save your travel pass on most phones (sadly, it does not yet work on iPhones).
  • If you have a CDD (a fixed-term contract) at the end of your contract you will have a legally binding bonus of 10% calculated on the totality of your earnings. If you are offered a permanent contract that you accept at the end of the contract, you lose your claim to the bonus (although in practise this can often be negotiated). CDDs cannot be in excess of 18 months and use of them has to be justified by the employer. Typical reasons are to cover maternity leave or a temporary increase in workload.
  • Without a permanent contract (CDI), finding accommodation in Paris can be a headache! Happily, there are sites like AirBnB, pages on FB, … which can help you find temporary accommodation whilst stabilising your professional situation. In Paris, guarantees are very often required for rented accommodation (normally from third parties). The idea being that if you do not pay your rent, your third party will pay it for you.
  • Since January 2019 the minimum wage in France is 10.03€ per hour or 1,521€ per month for a 35 hour week. In the UK the minimum wage for someone aged 25 years or over (April 2019) is £8.21 per hour.
  • Training – Each salaried person in France has a compte personnel de formation (“CPF”) (see Appli-Mon compte formation. Whilst you work you acquire rights to training. Your training rights move with you when you change jobs.
  • Unemployment – As a recruiter, I can say that most bilingual people are highly employable and there will be little chance that you will be unemployed! However, if, for whatever reason, you find yourself between two jobs, benefits are very generous in France. The amount you will receive depends on your situation but it’s “about” 70% of your last salary for a maximum of 2 years. You must have worked full-time in France for 6 months before you are eligible for unemployment benefit. For more information, click on this link and the one in ‘unemployment’.
  • There are 30 days holiday in France.  For nearly all workers in the UK 28 days statutory leave per year (although employers can include bank holidays in this figure).
  • In France the 35-hour week means that if you work more hours per week you get extra days off to recuperate (réduction du temps de travail commonly known as“RTT”). It depends on what has been negotiated for your sector of activity and this information is in the convention collective (collective bargaining agreement for your sector), but in general you can add 10 or so days to your holidays. A 39 hour week will generally give rise to an extra days holiday per month on top of your annual 30 days!
  • There are 11 bank holidays in France per year (dates vary according to the region). If they fall on a weekend, you will not recuperate them. Very often if they fall on a Thursday, for example, employees will faire le pont (meaning “make a bridge”) resulting in a long weekend. There are 9 bank holidays in UK (dates vary according to whether you are in Scotland, Wales or NI). The common bank holiday dates between France and the UK are the 1st January, Easter Monday, 1st May and the 25 December. Boxing Day does not exist in France.
  • During holiday periods don’t expect lots of professional activity between the 14 July and beginning September (when children return to school=la rentrée). Generally holidays are taken either in July or August and children’s summer break is 2 months (July and August). Many companies close between the 1st and the 15th August. There is also less activity during the Christmas and Easter periods.
  • Whilst more and more Parisians eat a sandwich at their desk, lunch hour still has its importance. You have perhaps been lucky enough in the UK to work for a company with a canteen or offering luncheon vouchers! In France, although it is not obligatory, most companies offer luncheon vouchers and 50% or 60% of their face value is paid for by the company, you pay the difference. They can have a value of up to 19€. If your company has a cantine, they may well not provide luncheon vouchers (it’s “generally” one or the other). This encourages the wonderful French tradition of lunch in bistros and restaurants close to offices. Lots of employees in London have a drink after work with their colleagues. In Paris, this is much rarer. If you are very social, you may find this aspect of office life difficult, but think of all those mouth-watering lunches!
  • Since January 2018 employers are obliged to offer health insurance (mutuelle) to their personnel. When you leave a company if you want to keep the same mutuelle you can take it with you in most cases (portabilité mutuelle). If you are married or similar and covered by your partners health insurance, you are not obliged to accept the health insurance from your employer.  Some employers pay a part of your mutuelle, generally 50-60% and some even pay it 100%. Health insurance coverage is generally excellent and includes teeth and glasses. If you are affiliated to the French social security system, you pay at the doctors, however, about 70% of this will be reimbursed to you and the mutuelle is for the remaining amount. Health insurance in France does not work the same way as in the UK. It is a whole other topic, but as an aside in France you can chose your own doctor and go direct to specialists. If you have certain illnesses all medical expenses relating to it are free, regardless of whether you have insurance or not see Prise en charge d’une affection longue durée. Since 1 January 2016 there is PUMA (la protection universelle maladie), it is open to anyone who lives and works in France regularly.
  • Since January 2017 French employees have the right to disconnect droit à la déconnexion (the right to not consult their mobile phones and emails during evenings/weekends…).
  • Since January 2018 employees are able to telework (Le teletravail – Fiche Technique) by right. If the employer objects, he must justify his refusal.
  • In France, there are 4 types of workers (we will discuss 2 types, covering the situation of the majority), employees et cadres. Cadre status is normally reserved for managers upwards. Below, there are some general differences:

> Employees
– Trial period: 2 months renewable once
– Notice period: Often one month (it often increases to 2 months after 2 years service). See the convention collective.
– Unemployment: You will sign up with Pôle Emploi.
– Retirement: You and your employers pay into a general retirement fund.
– Hours: Your hours are fixed and normally overtime is paid.

> Cadres
– Trial period: 4 months renewable once
– Notice period: Generally 3 months
– Unemployment: You will sign up with APEC.
– Retirement: You and your employers pay more for your retirement than employees.
– Hours: Cadres are generally present until the job is done!

  • Finally, something that I had personally not envisaged was an Azerty keyboard, but you get used to it!

French employment law is complex and evolving! We cannot squeeze details into this short article! The above text is general. Every individual situation is different, you should look up what is specific to your personal situation. Learn more about your rights in France and in the UK by clicking on the links in the above article.

Lynda Petit is a highly experienced recruitment consultant based in Paris since 2003. MA (Human Resource Management) and qualified from the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, London. Recent training has included Technology Training Core, Geekology. Her work experience has been acquired within international companies in London and Paris.Expertise with a smile, modern recruitment with a human touch, quality over quantity, working together for success!”

3 comments

  1. Sandy

    With regard to “health insurance “: this is not free! Either this health insurance is deducted from your salary or you have to add the amount your employer pays to your tax declaration. This is because Tax Administration considers this health insurance “offered” by your employer as a benefit which must be declared. In the end, it can increase your tax income considerably. For instance, to me, it represents 150€+/month, albeit I don’t need it as I’m never sick, and there are much cheaper insurance proposed on the market. But employees cannot refuse their employer’s choice. Therefore, before choosing a new position in another company, always ask for precision about their health insurance (amount, deducted or to be declared etc.).

  2. Anonymous

    Hi Lynda, Great article! If only I had known all that when I came over to Paris in 2003. I answered an Ad in the Fusac magazine and so I didn’t go through a recruitment agency. I had no idea about the differences between the UK and France – until much later and after much questioning! Hope to see you soon, Joanna Gilbert-Sparks

  3. adminsmart

    hello Sandy, if you have a partner who has health insurance, you are not obliged to accept your companies health insurance. If you had health insurance prior to your recruitment at this company, you could have kept it and refused the companies offer. All companies are obliged to provide health insurance, but salaried staff are not obliged to accept it if they can prove they have an alternative health insurance plan. Hope this helps, Lynda