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WORKING IN FRANCE

How to get the government to pay for your French classes

Learning French is pretty crucial if you live in France, and French classes can be expensive - but you could get the government to pay. Here's how.

French language class
French classes can be expensive. Photo: Patrick Baz/AFP

If you are working in France, then you are entitled to Mon Compte Formation – which is an annual budget for training and professional development.

It was introduced back in 2015 under François Hollande’s government but in 2019 an app was created. The online application process was simplified and the scheme’s popularity soared. 

It is open to salaried employees who work at least half a week, and since 2018 has also been open to self-employed people who are registered in France.

The money is credited to your own training account (not your bank account, so you can’t spend it on wine instead) and it’s up to you to decide what course you want to spend it on.

You could do courses to improve your workplace skills or courses on becoming an entrepreneur or running a business, but if you’re not French you can also take French language courses.

How to register

First you need to set up an account on the Mon Compte Formation website here or on the app – Mon CPF. Do make sure you’re on the official government site, as there have been quite a few scams linked to this scheme.

The account asks for basic personal info, plus your work and education history. You will need your social security number, which if you are working, you can find on your payslip.

Once registered, head to the ‘Droits’ section on the app or website to check how much money is in your training budget. 

Unskilled full-time workers get €800 a year while skilled full-time workers get €500 a year, with pro-rota allowances for part-timers. You can carry your allowance over for one year if you have your eye on an expensive course.

When you know how much you have to spend, head to the ‘Recherche’ section to find a course. You can search by subject (français étranger for French classes for foreigners) and set your location to find courses near you.

You can only use this budget for approved providers, so you will have to pick a language class from the list on the website, but in the big cities there is plenty of choice and quite a few language schools are now signed up to the scheme.

If you find a course that is slightly more expensive than your allowance then there is the option to use your CPF budget and pay the rest yourself.

Once you find a course that looks right for you, and is within your budget, then click on ‘submit dossier’ – this bit is surprisingly easy, just fill out the online form with your details and click submit. 

The next stage is that CPF contacts the language school that you have chosen so you will hear from them, either by phone or email, asking you to confirm the course.

Once you have confirmed this with the school, the status of your dossier on the CPF website moves from ‘pending’ to ‘approved’ and your total available training budget reduces by however much you have spent.

After that it’s between you and the language school to arrange times, dates etc for classes.

Other ways to learn for free

The training budget is only open to people who are working, but there are some other ways to learn French for free.

Unemployed

If you’re unemployed and registered with the Pôle emploi (French unemployment office) then you could be entitled to French courses if it would improve your prospects of getting a job. Ask your Pôle emploi agent what is available to you.

Language exchange

If you can’t afford professional classes there are other ways to learn, and one of the best is through language exchange. As a native English speaker you have a valuable skill to offer, and there are lots of exchange programmes where you buddy up with a French person and help them with their English, while they do the same for your French.

Search online for language exchanges near you, or try the app Meetup. Exchange sessions are usually free, but if you’re meeting in a café you will be expected to order something to eat or drink. 

If there are no exchanges near you, why not set up your own informal exchange with French friends or neighbours who want to improve their English?

Cheaper classes

If none of these work for you, there are options to get classes that are not free, but are still cheaper than language schools.

Once of these is classes through your local mairie. These tend to be during the day, so are often not suitable if you are working, but offer cut-price classes.

Ask at your local mairie if this on on offer and when the next sign-up date is – in big cities places go fast so be poised to sign up as soon as the next enrolment session opens.

The other option is the Université Pour Tous programme, which offers classes in the community in a variety of subjects, including French as a foreign language. Search online for your local Université Pour Tous and see what classes it offers.

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For members

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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