The most important things to know about employee benefits in France

October 12, 2021

Employee benefits in France

With a 35-hour work week and slogans such as “work to live and not live to work,” it’s not surprising that employee benefits in France are comprehensive. 

If you’re considering hiring talent in France, you’ll want to ensure you are both compliant with French law and competitive with what you’re offering prospective employees. Here are some of the benefits employees are entitled to in France that employers are partially responsible for funding:

  • Paid leave due to illness and disability
  • Paid maternal and paternal leave
  • Pensions
  • Death grant
  • Medical insurance

From mandated entitlements to cultural expectations and union-specific negotiations, there are a variety of moving parts when it comes to employee benefits in France.

Mandated benefits in France 

The benefits France offers its employees are funded by a combination of employers, employees and the French government. In this section we’ll go over mandated benefits, as well as some additional benefits that you can expect to influence the terms of employment when hiring talent in France. 

1. Health insurance 

The health system in France, couverture maladie universelle complémentaire (CMU-C), provides universal health insurance coverage for its residents. Individuals also have the option to supplement coverage with public and private care options. Universal healthcare in France is primarily funded by the French government, but employers and employees make contributions as well. 

Financial responsibility and funds for health insurance in France, break down as follows:

  • Payroll taxes and health insurance – Payroll taxes account for 53% of the funding that provides universal healthcare in France. Employers and employees split this tax, with the employer paying 80% and the employees covering the remaining 20%.
  • Unemployment and health insurance – When a person loses their job in France, they are covered by the Social Health Insurance scheme for one year following the time of the termination notice period

2. Maternity leave 

Maternity leave in France is comprehensive, beginning with the moment a mother is found to be pregnant by the doctor to the months after the child is born. The following is a breakdown of benefits—time, money and healthcare—that employees in France are entitled to:

  • Time off – In France, it’s mandatory for prenatal mothers to take at least eight weeks off from work. Given the situation, a mother-to-be is entitled to anywhere from 16 to 48 weeks of paid leave.
  • Payment – Daily benefits are paid to the mother for pre-and post-natal leave.

The daily amount paid depends on previous average income for three months preceding pre-natal leave. Tax and social security factors also contribute to the amount paid.

3. Paternity leave 

In France, fathers are entitled to time off in preparation for their newborn as well. Here’s a breakdown of what employers can expect:

  • Time off – Fathers-to-be are entitled to a mandatory period of four calendar days of paid leave following a three-day birth leave for a total of seven calendar days off. 
  • Payment – New fathers can take up to 28 days paternity leave, three of which the employer pays and 24 days of which are paid by French social security. As with maternity leave, the daily amount paid depends on previous average income of the three months preceding pre-natal leave. 

4. Adoption leave  

Similar to maternity and paternity leave, an employee in France is entitled to time off when adopting. Here’s a closer look:

  • Time off – Paid adoption leave is permitted for up to 10 weeks. For the adoption of more than one child, employees are permitted as much as 16 to 22 weeks. 
  • Payment – As with maternity and paternity leave, the daily amount paid for adoption leave is dependent on the average income of the previous three months preceding pre-natal leave. Parents are entitled to a daily payment that is equal to the average daily wage of the three-month period preceding leave. Adoptive partners are free to share benefits as they see fit. 

Note: For maternity, paternity and adoption leave, certain standards must first be met before an individual can be eligible. To qualify individuals must meet a required number of hours worked and contributions made. Individuals must also register with the social security system a minimum of ten months before the due date or arrival of the child.

5. Vacation and holidays

You’ll want to make sure you know when any of your team is likely to be away for national holidays as well as how much paid vacation they are entitled to: 

  • Paid vacation – Employees are guaranteed at least 30 calendar days or 25 working days of paid vacation time per year, by law.
  • Paid holidays – Employees are, by law, guaranteed one paid holiday (Labor Day).
  • Federal holidays – While Labor Day is the only paid holiday by law, there are 11 federal holidays in France that you’ll want to keep on your calendar. 

6. Sick leave

While there’s no planning for illness, you can get an idea of what your employees are entitled to if they do get sick:

  • The legal minimum – By law, employees are eligible to receive 50% of their standard daily wage for up to six months (following a three-day wait period). To qualify, employees must have logged 150 hours during the three months leading up to the time of leave. If the employee has worked 600 hours in the last twelve months, then they may be entitled to receive benefits for longer.
  • Common bargaining amounts – While the French government provides a mandated baseline for employees taking sick leave, collective bargaining and individual contracts often make for a bigger safety net. In some cases, employees receive as much as ninety percent of their typical earnings for the thirty days following their leave.

7. Death insurance 

Rather than losing a pension entirely in the case that a loved one passes away, French law allows for surviving relatives to inherit a portion of it. This is what is called a death grant or death insurance. The deceased must have been either collecting an unemployment benefit at the time of death or employed in the three months leading up to the incident for relatives to qualify.

8. Work hours and overtime

While France is known for its government-mandated 35-hour work week, other arrangements exist. As is often the case in France, it’s up to the worker if negotiations should vary. Here is what to plan for with work hours and overtime if hiring workers in France:

  • Weekly limitations – By law, employees cannot be asked to work more than 35 hours during the week.
  • Daily limitations – Employees are not allowed to work more than 10 hours a day. In some cases, 12-hour workdays are allowed, following the approval of a labor inspector and the collective agreement of the worker’s respective trade union and boss.
  • Overtime – Employees who work more than 35 hours in a week are entitled to additional payment (overtime). This rate of overtime payment is, by default, set at 125 percent for the first eight hours and 150 percent for the hours thereafter.

Some stipulations can be altered through collective agreements. In some instances, the result is a higher rate of overtime payment or time off in place of it. Furthermore, after an individual has worked over 220 hours of overtime, they are given compensation as well as time off.

9. Pension system 

The French pension system is made possible by contributions from employees and employers. While there is a system in place that requires mandatory minimum contributions (Retraite De Base), many workers will also opt into a supplementary pension to ensure adequate funds for retirement. 

In order to qualify for collecting from the system, an individual must have worked for a minimum of 42 years if born after 1952, and 40 if born before 1952. 

The importance of understanding employment benefits in France

Employee benefits are any compensation offered in addition to an employee’s regular wages or yearly salary. The types of benefits available to an employee can vary widely from country to country, as well as from sector to sector. When hiring employees around the world, you’ll want to make sure you know the law and the culture surrounding employee benefits. 

There are a few reasons for why:

  • To be competitive in your field – By knowing what benefits are commonly expected and most desirable, you can offer competitive packages to attract top talent. Get to know the area you’re hiring from. Find out what people most want in a job.
  • To know the cost – When it comes to your business, you want to know what something will cost. When hiring internationally, it’s no different. Be sure to know what you can expect to pay in benefits when hiring top talent from France. You’ll want to assess financially if the hire makes sense for your business.
  • To be compliant with local laws – Having access to talent internationally means ensuring you can hire the best team for your business. Keep in mind, however, that laws vary widely, putting your business at risk of noncompliance.

Local expertise for hiring in France

With access to worldwide talent, your business can be more dynamic than ever. When you’re looking to hire in France, it can be helpful to seek the guidance of an employment partner with local expertise. Find out how a France employer of record can help ensure compliance with France benefits regulations and customs.

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