Auto-entrepreneur reform goes before cabinet

A divisive bill that affects France’s legion of self-employed “auto-entrepreneurs” will be presented to government ministers on Wednesday, amid concerns the changes will put many out of business.

Auto-entrepreneur reform goes before cabinet
Underfire: Sylvia Pinel, who will present the contentious bill on auto-entrepreneurs to the French cabinet on Wednesday. Phot: Matthieu Rater/AFP

The much-maligned reform, only part of which is dedicated to auto-entrepreneurs, will be presented to the cabinet on Wednesday by Trades Minister Sylvia Pinel.

Pinel was tasked with coming up with changes to France's auto-entrepreneur scheme which, since it was set up in 2009, has allowed self-employed people an easy way to set up their own business.

The government wants to place limits on the status, which it believes puts regular tradespeople at a disadvantage.

Among the many changes mooted was a plan to place time limits on how long a self-employed worker could be registered as an auto-entrepreneur.

There was also talk of reducing the annual earning limits on auto-entrepreneurs, which meant those who surpassed them would have to give up the status and effectively set up their own limited company.

As The Local reported last week, however, it appears any mention of these limits were dropped from the final draft of the bill.

The apparent U-turn suggested the government had caved in to opposition.

According to French financial newspaper Les Echos, however, any mention of limits does not need to be included in the bill and can simply be added by decree at a later date.

“The fat that the threshholds are not addressed in the bill raises a lot of concern among the self-employed,” Ludovic Badeau from the Collective for the Defense of Auto-entrepreneurs told Europe1 radio.

“This may be a way for Sylvia Pinel to pass the bill in an easier way, with much less controversy. But just because these unacceptable limits are not included in the text of the bill, it is not possible to fool us auto-entrepreneurs. We remain cautious,” he added.

Since 2009, around one million people are believed to have signed up to the auto-entrepreneur status, launched by former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

It offers the self-employed an easy way to set up their own business and allows them to pay social charges as they earn, rather than up front.

It is appreciated by thousands of expats because it is relatively free of burdensome red tape.

In May, The Local reported how a group called “The Chicks” set up an online movement to fight the proposed reforms.

“We cannot and we must not accept the denial of social democracy that would lead to the destruction of our businesses, jobs and the growth of entrepreneurship in France,” read a statement on the website.

The apparent chopping and changing of the text of the bill has seen the government also come under fire from the tradespeople, whose interests the bill is supposed to favour.

"This text is a step forward. It is a step that needs to be thorough but it is very insufficient," said Alain J. Griset, president of the Permanent Assembly of Chambers of Trade.

Various reports have suggested there is no need to alter something that has proved to be a success for both individuals and the country as a whole.

In July, a study by global auditors firm RSM suggested that France was one the leading countries in business creation thanks to its auto-entrepreneurs.

And in April, a report by the General Inspectorate of Social Affairs and Finance concluded that the status does not clash with that of traditional trades people and that auto-entrepreneurs “take up niches that are neglected by other companies”.

The future of the popular scheme is now in the hands of ministers, and a parliamentary committee is to be set up to discuss the text that will eventually be put before parliament.

Auto-entrepreneurs will want to keep a close eye on events.

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How to get a summer job in France

As the summer holidays approach in France, many employers are looking for seasonal workers - so if you're looking for a summer job, here's how to go about it.

How to get a summer job in France

There are thousands of employment offers in France – a simple internet search for jobs d’été came up with numerous jobs boards offering work in France, while the government-backed Centre d’Information et de Documentation pour la Jeunesse (CIDJ) offers advice and information on all aspects of life for young people in France, including finding seasonal work and summer placements.

Sectors including agriculture, hospitality and tourism are always recruiting in the summer, seeking fruit-pickers, holiday camp workers and serving/hotel staff.

But what are the rules for people seeking summer jobs?

READ ALSO Vendange: What you really sign up for when you agree to help with the French wine harvest


Children from the age of 16 (under certain circumstances, the age limit drops to 14) who are legally resident in France can work as long as they have written authorisation from their parents or legal guardians. A model authorisation letter is available here

Those under the age of 18 cannot undertake certain jobs for health and safety reasons.

In the following circumstances, children as young as 14 or 15 can work during school holidays.

  • The holidays must last at least 14 days;
  • The child must work no more than half the days of the holiday – so, if a vacation period is two weeks, they can work for no more than one of those weeks;
  • The child is given ‘light duties’ that offer no risk to their safety, health, or development;
  • From the age of 15 and if the child has completed their troisieme education, a minor can register for an apprenticeship. 


Salary is usually paid monthly and will have a payslip. For those aged 18 and over, pay will be at least equal to the minimum wage.

 For those aged 14 to 17, who have less than six months’ professional experience, the minimum allowed rate is 80 percent of the minimum wage. For those aged 17 to 18, the rate rises to a minimum of 90 percent of France’s minimum wage.

  • The minimum wage in France is currently €10.85 gross per hour (€1,645.58 gross per month based on a 35-hour week);
  • the employment contract is fixed-term and can take different forms (fixed-term contract, seasonal employment contract, temporary employment contract, etc);
  • Seasonal employees are subject to the same obligations as the other employees of the company and have access to the same benefits (canteens, breaks, etc.).

Under 18s have certain additional protections:

  • between the ages of 14 and 16, during school holidays, employees on any contract cannot work more than 35 hours per week nor more than 7 hours per day;
  • They cannot work at night;
  • Those aged 14 to under 16 working during their school holidays can only be assigned to work which is not likely to harm their safety, their health or development.

Right to work in France

If you’re a French citizen or hold permanent residency in France then you have the right to work, but for foreigners there are extra restrictions.

Anyone who holds the passport of a EU/EEA country or Switzerland, is free to work in France or to travel to France seeking work without needing a visa or work permit.

Most other people will need permission to work in France – even if it’s only for a short period or for casual work such as grape-picking. Depending on your country of origin you may need a visa – everything you need to know about that is here.

In addition to the visa, you may also need a work permit, which is the responsibility of the employer.  To employ anyone in France for less than 90 days, an employer must get a temporary work permit – before the prospective employee applies for a short stay visa. This permit is then sent to the embassy at which the employee is applying for a visa.

If you come from countries including the UK, USA and Canada you can spend up to 90 days in France without a visa – but you may still need a work (convention d’accueil) if you want to work while you are here.

READ ALSO Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in France

Certain countries have specific ‘seasonal worker’ visas on offer, for certain sectors which allows – for example – Canadians to come to France and work the ski season. 

Cash-in-hand jobs

Certain sectors which have a lot of casual workers – for example seasonal fruit-picking – do have cash-in-hand jobs, known in France as marché noir (black market) or simply travail au black (working on the black, or working illegally). 

This is of course illegal and working this way carries risks – as well as the possibility of losing your job if labour inspectors turn up you are also in a vulnerable position. If your employer suddenly decides not to pay you, or make unexpected deductions from your wages, there is very little you can do about it since you won’t have any kind of work contract.