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WORKING IN FRANCE

EXPLAINED: What you should know if you want to quit your job in France

You may have heard that getting a permanent contract job in France is like finding the golden egg, but what if you want to quit? Here is what you need to know:

EXPLAINED: What you should know if you want to quit your job in France
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Quitting your job in France is not that tricky, but there are a few things foreign workers you should be aware of. 

The first is that a “resignation” (la démission) in France is technically reserved for people that were on permanent work contracts. If you were on a fixed-term contract (CDD) then it is a bit trickier to resign – in most cases, you will need to prove you have been hired for a permanent contract job (a CDI). 

The second is to use ‘lettres recommandé‘ whenever possible – this is the type of letter where the recipient must acknowledge receipt. 

As alluded to, how to quit depends on which contract you were previously on, so the first step is to check which type of contact you have:

For employees on a permanent contract (CDI)

For salariés (or employees with the CDI contract) – you can technically “decide to leave [your] job at any time.”

Your resignation does not have to be ‘accepted’ by your employer, but you do have to give formal notice. The amount of time for the notice period depends on your contract – typically it is between one to three months prior to your final work date. For some professions, the notice period is set by a collective agreement and is listed in your employment contract; for others, the notice period is set by the law. 

You can check to see whether your industry has a ‘collective agreement’ regarding the notice period for resigning by using this simulator created by the French Labour Ministry. 

You can only be exempted from the notice period if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You are pregnant or just gave birth – resignations motivated by pregnancy only require 15 days notice to the employer. Keep in mind your pregnancy must be “medically certified” (I.e. you’ll likely need to show documentation)
  • You wish to resign in order to raise your child after taking parental leave 
  • If you have already taken a leave of absence to create your own company 
  • If you are a journalist, and you are resigning due to the ‘conscience clause’
  • If your employer has exempted you from needing to respect the notice period. If this is the case, it is recommendable to get the exemption in writing.

You should keep in mind that this applies to anyone with a CDI job – which can include minimum wage workers.

What happens if you don’t respect the notice period?

You can be required to pay compensation to the company caused by your ‘rupture brutale.’

Keep in mind that once you submit your resignation, it is typically not retractable. If you wish to withdraw your resignation, you would have to do so within a short period of time after submitting it. The form of withdrawal depends on your company and contract. 

After resigning, your employer must give you specific documents, including your work certificate, a certificate of employment for the pôle d’emploi, a receipt showing your final salary, and finally a summary statement of any savings plans or profit-sharing schemes you took part in as an employee.

What about my paid leave?

Employees are entitled to payment in lieu of paid leave if they have been unable to take all their leave before the contract termination date.

However, if you are looking to take your paid leave after sending your resignation letter, then you could risk having your notice extended by as many days as you left for holiday. While your employer might waive this and allow the notice period to continue running while you are on vacation, keep in mind that they do not have to.

Any agreement – whether the period is extended or remains the same – would need to be communicated in writing between employer and employee.

Finally, your employer cannot force you to take paid vacation during your notice period if you have outstanding days. 

Can I qualify for unemployment benefit after quitting the job?

According to official French government websites, “Employees who resign are not, in principle, eligible for unemployment allowance known as the Allocation de retour à l’emploi (ARE) or le chômage as most people refer to it in France.”

That’s because le chômage, which is paid out for a certain period of time and of which the monthly amount is linked to the previous job’s salary, is basically only those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own are entitled to this particular unemployment benefits.”

In some cases, you might be able to apply for unemployment insurance if you can prove that you”

  • Moved house (to accompany their spouse, civil partner, etc.).
  • Left your job to complete a training course that would offer a certification or a qualification
  • Plan to set up or take over a business.
  • Plan to enroll in a vocational retraining program.
  • If you are “engaged in a civic service or volunteering activity”

What about a “Rupture conventionnelle“?

This is when a permanent contract is terminated via mutual consent between the employer and the employee. Either party can request a rupture conventionnelle, but it cannot be imposed or forced on an employee by the employer.

Some critiques are that this option is a means of amicable dismissal for the employer, but it offers benefits for both the employee and the employer. 

The primary benefit to the employee regarding the rupture conventionnelle is the ability to access unemployment benefits afterwards, as well as a severance package (as negotiated with the employer). It can offer an alternative to simply resigning.

Severance pay cannot be less than the legal minimum, though if you are in a field that has collectively negotiated for severance pay standards, the minimum might be higher.

There is a specific legal procedure that must be followed for a rupture conventionnelle. The termination agreement must begin with a series of interviews, and then a written contract will be drawn up, which will then be validated by the DDETSPP (essentially the employment offices for your département). 

There is no notice period – the employee leaves on the agreed date.

If your employer rejects your request for a rupture conventionnelle, then you would follow the procedure listed above to resign.

Employees with a fixed-term contract (CDD)

If you are still in the ‘période d’essai‘ (trial period) then you can terminate your contract at any moment without needing to provide any justification. 

Outside the trial period, a CDD job may be terminated before the end of the contract under the following circumstances:

  • The employer and employee have made an agreement (best to get this in writing)
  • If the employee can prove they have been hired on a permanent contract (CDI). You should indicate in writing your intent to terminate the contract as well as showing proof of hiring (a promise of hiring, promesse d’embauche, or an employment contract, for instance). 
  • Serious misconduct (faute grave) – this is if the employer chooses to terminate the employee’s contract due to wrongdoing. Some examples of serious misconduct might be drunkenness during working hours, unjustified absences or an abandonment of post, insubordination (refusal to perform a work task provided for in the contract), harassment or violence towards the employer or other employees, or theft. You can learn more about what constitutes serious misconduct HERE.
  • Force majeure” – this is if the employee can demonstrate that they are going through an “unforeseeable and insurmountable” event that is “beyond their control” and makes continuing the employment contract impossible. Learn more HERE.
  • Incapacity to perform the job, accompanied by a doctor’s note

Technically, when quitting a CDD job, you must still respect a notice period, unless your employer waives it. Usually, the duration is calculated on a rate of one day of notice per week worked. This might be specified in your contract, but your notice period should not exceed two weeks. 

If there is ‘termination by mutual agreement’ then it is not mandatory to provide a notice period. You can also attempt to negotiate this with your employer.

How do I resign?

The best way to resign is by sending a ‘recommended’ resignation letter. You can find a template on the service-puclic.fr website HERE.

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PENSION

What to know about your French pension if you worked in another EU country

If you have worked and paid pension contributions in both France and another EU country - including pre-Brexit Britain - then here is what you can expect for how your combined pension will be calculated.

What to know about your French pension if you worked in another EU country

It is common for people to work in more than one country during the course of their career, and they usually end up paying pension contributions in each country. However it is not always clear how these are combined once you reach retirement age. 

This is the situation for people who have worked in France and another EU/EEA country or Switzerland. For those who have worked in a non-EU country, click HERE. For Brits, go to the bottom of the article. 

French pension

If you are an employee in France you will already be paying into your pension, since this is compulsory. If you take a look at your French payslip, among the deductions for social charges is the ‘retraits‘ section and this shows your pension contributions. These can be quite high – OECD data shows that the average French worker pays 11 percent of their monthly (gross) salary into their pension. 

READ MORE: Ask the experts: What foreigners living in France need to know about French pensions

In France, because the pension system is “pay-as-you-go”, you are technically eligible for a French pension after just one quarter (trimestre) of working in France under a French contract, though the value of the pension after just one quarter would be quite low.

You can use the French government pension simulator to check the level of your French pension – full details HERE on how that works.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: The website to help you calculate your French pension

Non-French pension

In general, periods of employment outside France may be combined with years worked in France to boost or qualify for the French state pension. However, it depends on which country you have worked in, and whether that country has a social security agreement with France.

All EU, EEA countries, and Switzerland have social security coordination, so will have their pension contributions made in France calculated in the same way as for EU/EEA countries.

Retirement age

The first step is to look at how many EU/EEA countries you have worked in, and to check your retirement eligibility under each of those regimes.

For example, if you worked in both Denmark and in France, then you must consider the minimum age of retirement in both countries. If a person retired at the French legal age of 62, they would receive only the French portion of their pension until they reached Denmark’s legal retirement age (66 to 68), when they would start getting the Danish portion as well. 

Pension rates

Then, a calculation is done to determine the pension rate. This will look at the person’s would-be pension under the French scheme (also known as the national pension, or independent benefit). Another calculation will also be done to determine the pension rate under the European community formula (also known as the pro-rata benefit). In most cases the higher value will be the pension applied.

On the European Commission’s website dedicated to explaining old-age pensions across the EU, the European authorities explain how this double calculation is done. Taking the example of the hypothetical person “Rosa” who has worked 20 years in France and 10 years in Spain, the EU site explained how the two European countries would determine who pays what portion of Rosa’s pension.

Starting with France, the first calculation made determines Rosa’s current pension under the French scheme – which is based on Rosa’s 20 years contributing to the French pension system. It is determined that she is entitled to €800 per month.

READ MORE: Reader Question: How long do I have to work to qualify for a French pension?

The next calculation uses the European calculation that offers a theoretical amount – the pension Rosa would receive had she worked the entirety of her career in France.

This theoretical calculation determines that for 30 years working in France, and it determines Rosa would earn a €1,500 pension. To figure out the portion of Rosa’s total pension that France will pay, French authorities multiply Rosa’s would-be total pension (€1,500) by the 20 years worked in France. Then, they divide that by the total years worked in both countries (30 years).

This finds that ultimately France will pay Rosa €1,000 per month as her French pension.

As for the Spanish side, pension authorities will also look at Rosa’s “pro-rata” (or theoretical pension) if she had worked the entirety of her career in Spain. They determine that she would have received a Spanish pension of €1,200 for a full career. Then, Spanish authorities do the same European calculation where they multiply Rosa’s would be total pension (€1,200) by the number of years worked in Spain (10). They divide this number by the total number of years worked (30) to get the portion of Rosa’s total pension that should be paid by Spain.

This determines that Rosa ought to receive €400 of her pension from Spain.

In total, she will receive a pension of €1,400, but €1,000 will be paid by France, and €400 will be paid by Spain. 

You can see more examples of these calculations with specific simulations at the Europa.EU website page for State pensions abroad. 

You can also watch this video, made by the European Commission, to understand how the process works for EU nationals.

The case for Brits

Brexit has made pensions more complicated for Brits, and essentially divides British workers into two groups.

Those who arrived in France before December 31st 2020 – and are therefore covered by the Withdrawal Agreement – continue to benefit from EU social security co-ordination. They should therefore have their pensions calculated as described above.

Those who moved to France after December 31st 2020 are treated as non-EU nationals for pension calculations – click HERE for a full explanation of the system for non-EU workers.

This article is a general view of the pension system and does not constitute individual financial advice. If you are are unsure about your pension rights, seek independent financial advice.

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