New to work in France?

This article aims to offer practical information for people new to working in France. 

  • Salaries are commonly paid over 13 months. This will be confirmed in the “convention collective” (collective bargaining agreement covering 95% of all French employees) applying to each sector of activity. The original idea of the 13th month was to pay your year end taxes. Since January 2019 taxes are deducted at source. The 13th month may disappear over time once Pay As You Earn (PAYE) culture is entrenched. See Fiche de Paie : ce qui change avec le prélèvement à la source
  • French salary slips Dematerialisation: Since January 2017 employers can send electronic pay slips. 
  • Parisian public transport! (All tarifs below apply to 2024)
    • Parisian public transport is on the Carte Navigo (the Carte Navigo includes all travel within the zone on metro, bus, tram, RER & train). 
    • A Carte Navigo covering zones 1-5 (zone 5 is roughly Fontainebleau) you will pay 950,40€ pa. Zones 2-3 : 866,80€, zone 3-4 : 844,80€, zone 4-5 : 822,80€.
    • For those that are employed 50% of your public transport costs are reimbursed by your employer so an annual Carte Navigo for zones 1-5 actually ends up costing you 475,20€ per year.
    • Dematerialisation: You can save your travel pass (most phones) and you can recharge Passe Navigo tickets on your phone (load app: IDF Mobilités
  • The minimum wage (01/01/2024) (Salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance “SMIC”) is 1766,92€ gross 1398,69€ net for a 35 hour week. 
  • If you have a CDD (a fixed-term contract) at the end of your contract you have a legally binding 10% bonus calculated on your total earnings. If you accept a permanent contract (CDI) at the end of the CDD, you lose your claim to the bonus. CDDs cannot exceed 18 months (except for those aged 57 years and over when CDDs can run to 3yrs, in certain conditions). Use of CDDs has to be justified by your employer and are generally used for maternity cover, increased workload, absence of an employee due to training.
  • The internship allowance (l’indemnité de stage) (from Jan 2024) is 4,35€ per hour. It is an obligation when you have an internship superior in length to 2 months (44 days or 308 hours). It does not matter if your internship is continual or with interruptions. Attention ! If your internship is less than 308 hours or inferior to 2 months, the company does not have an obligation to pay you! Work experience (stage) can not be superior to 6 months.

  • Apprenticeship Contract or a Professional Training Contract Contrat d’apprentissage or Contrat de professionnalisation for an apprenticeship contract and a Professional Training Contract the salary varies according to age, studies and the collective bargaining agreement. Since 2022 you can even do part of your apprenticeship in a country just over the EU border. Faire un contract en alternance à l’étranger !
  • Training – each salaried person has a compte personnel de formation (“CPF”). Whilst you work you acquire rights to training that are transferable from job to job. Full-time workers get €500 pa. (unskilled workers get €800) not exceeding a total of €5,000 (€8,000 for unskilled workers). For part-time employees, the amount is calculated pro-rata to hours worked.
  • Leaving a job to start your own business! Since 2019 you can resign from your job after 5 years with the same employer to start a business and be eligible for unemployment!
  • The 35-hour week  means that if you work above 35 hours per week you are entitled extra days off to compensate (réduction du temps de travail commonly “RTT”). Your RTT entitlement depends on what was negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement applicable to your sector of activity. A 39 hour week will typically give rise to an extra days holiday per month!
  • There are 30 days holiday
  • There are 10 bank holidays per year (dates vary according to regions). If they fall on a weekend, you will not recuperate them. If, for example, they fall on a Tuesday or a Thursday, employees will often faire le pont (meaning “make a bridge”) resulting in a long weekend (ex. Saturday to Tuesday inclusive). Don’t expect lots of professional activity during August, many companies close between 1-15 August and Christmas week.
  • Luncheon vouchers are not obligatory, however, 5 million employees receive them and 50 or 60% is paid for by the company, employees pay the difference (the current max. face value is 25€). They are accepted at most restaurants and bakeries. You can until the end of 2024 pay for your groceries with them too!
  • Since January 2018 employers are obliged to offer health insurance (mutuelle) to their employees. When you change jobs, 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%, some even pay 100%. If affiliated to the French social security system, you pay at the doctors, about 70% of the cost will be reimbursed to you, the mutuelle covers the remaining amount. You can chose your own doctor and go direct to specialists. If you have certain illnesses (example, cancer, …) 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), open to anyone who lives/works in France regularly.
  • Since Jan. 2017 French employees have the right to disconnect from their mobiles/computers outside working hours droit à la déconnexion.
  • Since January 2018 employees are able to telework by right. See our Remote Working article
  • If you do not have an EU passport allowing you to work in France/EU, you can apply for the EU Blue Card which is a work and residence permit for non-EU/EEA nationals! For this you must have a written offer of employment in France or the EU (excluding Ireland & Denmark who are not part of the scheme) for a minimum of 6 months, the minimum salary is the average of what a professional in that role would earn, you must also have a Masters degree or equivalent level and have at least 5 years professional experience.
  • Further reading:

French employment law is complex and evolving! The above text is general and very individual situation is different. We advise that you research your own personal circumstances. To earn more click on the links in the above article.

Lynda Petit is an experienced recruitment consultant. Member of the National Association of Human Resource Directors, Paris. Qualified in Human Resource Management from the (CIPD) Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, London. Her work experience has been acquired within international companies including start-up and agency in France and the UK.



  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