France Work Culture

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Work Culture

To do business in France, it is vital to have a good understanding of its business or work culture. Making the right impression with the right people is the key to success in France, and it is important to back this up with the right research on the market and potential business associates. As a global PEO (Professional Employment Organization) it is our goal to be familiar and updated with the business culture in the country we work with and in. By sharing our knowledge about the French work culture, we want to support your global expansion plans. Therefore, we will address all the aspects of the work culture in France to start your expansion well-informed.

Foreign companies hoping to make their mark in the France’s economy must have a thorough understanding of the country’s work environment – not just it’s tradition of culture, art, and cuisine  and in France the love of their language is an important part of that culture. There is a strong division between business and family life and, despite working fewer hours than most of Europe, productivity is high. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranked France 15th out of 87 nations for worker productivity. Although traditional in some ways, tending towards a hierarchical structure, individual initiative is valued by French businesses. Women’s role in business is protected by law and legislation is reducing gender pay differentials.

Punctuality and Meetings: Being on time is not such an issue as in some countries but call if running more than 10 minutes late. Book meetings at least two weeks in advance, mid to late morning or mid-afternoon (avoiding lunch – unless you are invited and, in that case, never be late!). French businesspeople generally do not appreciate you arriving unannounced in their office. Language:

French is the official language, and for many the ‘only language’ and a much-loved part of their culture. Even if your French is scant, don’t start the introductory conversation in English. Make the effort and the meeting will go more smoothly.

Business Relationships: Stay focused on the business reason for the meeting, avoid small talk and don’t stray into questions or revelations about private life. The French keep these two elements very separate. Concentrate on delivering relevant specifics in a clear way without exaggeration or over-emphasis.

Introductions and Greetings: Leave the highest-ranked of your counterparts to initiate handshakes, especially if your opposite number is female. Use ‘Monsieur’ and ‘Madame’ before the surname – some business relationships never get as far as first names. ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Au revoir’ on arriving and leaving is polite. If exchanging ‘la bise’ (‘air kisses’ one on each cheek) do not also shake hands. Exchange business cards, with the French version on the uppermost side.

Gift-giving: There is little tradition for this, choose something tasteful if at all.

Dress Code: Stays formal throughout the meeting; jackets are rarely removed, and ties stay knotted; stylish, smart, and tailored suits for women. If the invitation says ‘Dress informal’, still wear a jacket and tie.

Negotiating the deal: Always best to deal with your highest-ranked opposite number, otherwise subsequent discussions in their office could ‘move the goalposts’. Supply minutes asap after the meeting.

Business Meals: Long business meetings are the norm though more about building relationships, and of course the French take cuisine very seriously. Choose the restaurant carefully as this will indicate the value you put on the relationship. Let your hosts choose the wine.

French Minimum Wage

There was no increase in 2021 to France’s National Minimum Wage of €1,554.60 (US$1,830) per month which is €18,655 (US$21,963) per year and divided into 12 equal payments.

Probation Periods in France

Probation or trial periods are often entered into for mutual assessment. Conditions and skill levels can be written into the employment agreement or contract including the duration and if there is provision for an extension.

Generally, open ended contracts allow for maximum trial periods of:

  • Blue- and white-collar workers – Two months
  • Technical staff and middle managers – Three months
  • Top-line professional and managerial staff – Four months

Provided that extensions to probationary periods do not contravene the industry’s collective agreements, the probation can be extended once, which can effectively double the probation time.

During probation an employer may give notice to his employee:

  • During first seven days – 24 Hours
  • In the first month – 48 hours
  • During months two and three – 2 weeks
  • Following the third month – 4 weeks
  • When an employee gives notice in the first seven days – 24 hours
  • Thereafter during the length of the probation – 48 hours

Both parties can terminate the probation without giving reasons as long as there is no discrimination.

Working Hours in France

Legally, the weekly working hours are 35 across the board. Maximum working hours daily is 10 unless an extension if given in a collective agreement to 12 hours. A rest period is mandatory after four-and-a-half hours. 48 hours per week is the maximum allowed or on average 44 hours over 12 consecutive weeks. Hours are considered overtime above the 35 regular working hours.

Breaks are a minimum of 20 mins every six hours with 11 hours rest between working days and 35 hours rest per working week. Sunday is generally considered a rest day.

Overtime in France

Hours over the legally allowed 35 hours per week or 1,607 hours annually are considered overtime and paid as such.

Remuneration for the first eight hours is paid at 125% of the basic hourly rate and 150% for every subsequent hour. However, collective bargaining agreements can allow for ‘paid leave of absence’ and when overtime per year is more than the 220 hours, then a paid leave of absence is permitted as well as the premium due.

Notice Periods in France

Notice periods in France are governed by both collective agreements and the French Labor Code and the length of notice is determined by seniority. By law the entitlement is:

  • From six months to two years employment – One month’s notice
  • For more than two years – Two months’ notice

Employment of less than six months is governed by company code of practice or collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) which may also stipulate longer periods of notice for employees.

Every employee is entitled to notice unless dismissed through gross misconduct. However, there are strict procedures to terminate a contract and dismiss an employee, including detailed written justifications. The employee has the right for union representatives to attend any meetings.

Termination of notice periods can be agreed between both parties. If the employer wishes to terminate the notice period, the employee should still be paid. If the employee wishes to leave, then the employer has no obligation to pay him.

Redundancy / Termination in France

Statutory severance pay equals a quarter of monthly salary for each year of employment up to 10 years and one third for each subsequent year if no collective agreement applies.