French work ban on Brits is ‘abuse of power’

As another British outdoor sports professional is threatened with jail over his bid to work in France, The Local talks to the head of a European group battling the French bureaucrats who they claim are illegally imposing the bans.

French work ban on Brits is 'abuse of power'
Alaistair Jamieson, who has been told he cannot work in France because he doesn't have the correct qualifications. Photo: A Jamieson

Brit Alistair Jamieson, 36, who runs mountain biking holidays in the Alps, has been banned by the authorities from working in France and threatened with jail and a €15,000 fine if he flouts the order.

Despite Jamieson's claims that he has all the necessary qualifications, bureaucrats in France say his UK qualification is "inadmissable" and therefore is working illegally.

Jamieson's run-in with the law comes after the high profile case of British ski instructor Simon Butler, who was fined €30,000 by a French court in June for teaching without the appropriate licence.

The secretary of the European Confederation of Outdoor Employers (EC-OE) told The Local on Tuesday that Jamieson, like Butler, was another victim of French civil servants seeking to maintain a “monopoly”.

“This is what we call in French law an abuse of power," said Frenchman Jean-Yves Lapeyrere.  “Their agenda is to keep their monopoly of certification [from the Sports Ministry] over France.”

“If they recognized the qualification of Mr Jamieson they would break their monopoly and open a door they do not want to open. It’s not really a legal issue, it’s a political issue.”

The EC-OE is preparing joint legal action with Jamieson and his 14 employees, many of them Brits, as well other sports holiday professionals, including Simon Butler.

(Simon Butler, pictured in the middle, outside a court in France)

Despite having the highest-rated British ski instructor's licence, Butler refused to obtain qualifications needed to teach in France, in the face of repeated convictions and fines.

Butler, a skier with 30-years experience, said France's refusal to recognise British certificates violated EU laws on freedom of movement, in particular a 2005 directive on Europe-wide recognition of qualifications.

The argument is at the heart of the cases being prepared by the EC-OE, a grouping of the national associations of outdoor activity companies from 13 countries.

“There is nothing wrong with the EU directive or with French law,” Lapeyrere said. “The problem is with some French civil servants who are under pressure from French lobbyists.”

'I have a commitment to my customers'

Jamieson has been told he must report to local police in the resort of Les Arcs in the Savoie region and that he risks imprisonment if he continues to work without an official permit.

Jamieson, whose business "Trail Addiction" offers guided mountain biking trips to around 500 customers each summer, has been working in France without an official permit for more than a decade.

“I believe I’m legally allowed to work in France and that’s why I will continue working,” Jamieson told The Local. “I’ve got a commitment to my customers.”

Jamieson says he and his employees either have higher qualifications or qualifications at the same level as their French equivalents, according to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF).

The regional French prosecutor said Jamieson’s British qualifications were “inadmissible” and dismissed his teaching experience.

“It’s always the same pattern,” Lapeyrere said. “The guys declare themselves and then the French threaten them.”

The EC-OE is studying the cases of a total of 50 foreign outdoor sports employers and employees in France, including Belgians, Portuguese and Dutch as well as Brits.

“The civil servants make it so complicated,” Lapeyrere said.

“A lot of Brits have given up or have done what the French told them to without realizing it wasn't actually legal.”

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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.