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Beyond the scams: How to use France’s €500 training budget

Free training schemes for workers in France have been beset by scammers, seeking to harvest personal data and steal public money. But this doesn't mean you should pass up on the opportunity to learn for free.

Driving school vehicles sat in a car park in Bordeaux, France. Driving lessons can be paid for, for free, via CPF.
Driving lessons are particularly useful for foreigners struggling to exchange their licences for a French one. They can be paid for via CPF - which is a useful scheme once you ignore the scammers. (Photo by GEORGES GOBET / AFP)

France created the Compte Personnel de Formation (CPF) system back in 2015. 

The idea is simple. All employees in France are able to access money each year for free professional training (€800 for unskilled workers, €500 for full-time, skilled workers).

The money can be for all sorts of professional development or entrepreneurship courses, but of particular use to foreigners it can also be used for driving lessons or French-language lessons.

All you need is a social security number to claim your allowance. 

READ ALSO How to claim the cost of language or driving lessons from the French government

Since the creation of a highly accessible app in 2019, more than 3 million people have accessed their allowance to participate in free training of one kind or another. A total of around 35 million people have accounts waiting to be tapped into. There is more than €53 billion worth of training credit sitting dormant in the system – a figure that will only increase with time. 

The scammers

Scammers and marketing companies have caught wind of this. In recent weeks, SMS messages warning people that they would lose their allowance and urging them to sign up to training courses have become increasingly frequent. These messages often contain fraudulent links asking recipients to enter their personal details onto dodgy websites.

Recipients are also often bombarded by phone calls and emails – largely from call centres in sub-Saharan Africa and Israel, subcontracted by the private training scheme providers, according to an investigation by Le Parisien

Other messages are more malicious, sent by scammers to harvest personal data – or to draw money from CPF accounts, by having them pay into fake training schemes.

39 official accusations have been levelled against training organisations over the past two years – a tiny proportion of the  25,000 organisations in total. A financial crime unit within the police is now monitoring CPF closely and the government has promised to pass a law to stop this kind of aggressive marketing around the scheme, which has had its reputation tainted. 

What to do if you are targeted 

There are some important steps to take if you receive SMS messages, calls and emails urging you to take action.

For more information on how to sign up and what to use the training budget for, click here.

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WORKING IN FRANCE

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

Age

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

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. 

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