Date of update
Are you seeking employment in France? Understanding the contractual relationship between employer and employee is essential.
An employee is in a subordinate relationship with their employer, which means that they are placed under the authority of the latter. Thus, the employer can:
- Give them orders and instructions.
- Monitor the execution of the tasks entrusted to the employee.
- Penalize them for any breaches.
In France, different types of employment contract can be used depending on the nature and duration of the role entrusted to the employee by the employer.
When a company needs to fill a role temporarily, it may hire an employee for a limited period of time through the use of a fixed-term contract (contrat à durée déterminée – CDD). Indeed, fixed-term contracts are intended to be used by companies when they need to fulfil ad hoc requirements that involve performing a specific task. Such contracts are signed between an employee and a French employer. Their duration is, by definition, limited.
Cases where fixed-term contracts may be used
The use of fixed-term contracts is governed by the law. This type of contract may only be used when a temporary role needs to be fulfilled, unlike a permanent contract, which allows a permanent position to be filled within a company.
Employers may use a fixed-term contract for the following purposes, in particular:
- Replacing an employee.
- A temporary increase in business volumes.
- Seasonal employment (tourism, agriculture, etc.).
Under no circumstances may a fixed-term contract be used on a long-term basis to fill a position related to the company’s usual and permanent business activities. If a person needs to be hired on a long-term basis, the use of a permanent contract is mandatory. If, in such cases, a fixed-term contract is signed, it may be considered tantamount to a permanent contract in the event of a dispute, given that the use of a fixed-term contract cannot be justified by an employer in this context.
|Good to know: Citizens of countries outside the European Union, the European Economic Area and Switzerland will need to hold a valid residence permit equivalent to a work permit, or a work permit in addition to their residence permit.
For further information, please read our dedicated fact sheet
Replacing an employee
If a permanent position in a company becomes vacant due to the absence or departure of an employee or due to an employee temporarily switching to a part-time contract, the employer may hire an employee on a fixed-term contract to fulfil this ad hoc requirement.
An employee may therefore occupy the vacant position under a fixed-term contract if they are replacing an employee who is temporarily absent, except in cases where the absent employee is on strike.
A fixed-term contract may also be used when replacing an employee whose employment contract has been temporarily suspended (sick leave, maternity leave, paid leave, parental leave, etc.) or an employee who is temporarily working on a part-time basis (parental leave, leave granted to set up or take over a company, etc.).
When a company is awaiting the arrival of an employee recruited on a permanent contract, it may sign a fixed-term contract with another individual pending their arrival. If an employee has permanently left the company, but their position has not yet been terminated, a fixed-term contract may be used.
|Good to know: If the head of a company is absent, an employee may be hired to replace them under a fixed-term contract.|
Temporary increases in business volumes
If a company experiences a temporary increase in its business volumes, it may use fixed-term contracts. The employer must be able to prove that the increased workload cannot be absorbed by the company’s permanent employees (e.g. an increase in business, urgent work that needs to be carried out immediately, or a need for temporary organizational measures).
This increase in business must not stem from the company’s usual and permanent business activities. If, in such cases, a fixed-term contract is signed, it may be considered tantamount to a permanent contract in the event of a dispute, given that the use of a fixed-term contract cannot be justified by an employer in this context.
|Good to know: Fixed-term contracts may not be used for this purpose less than six months after termination of the same positions for economic reasons.|
When a position involves tasks that are repeated each year, the employer may be entitled to use a fixed-term contract.
This is particularly relevant to the agricultural sector, the food industry and tourism.
Other cases where fixed-term contracts may be used
Fixed-term contracts may also be used within the scope of specific agreements, including:
- The fixed-term integration contract (CDD d’insertion – CDDI) for vulnerable individuals who struggle to access employment (long-term unemployed, disabled workers, etc.). These are used within the framework of specialist organizations. For further information, please visit: https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F2284.
- Vocational training and apprenticeship contracts.
- Fixed-term contracts with specifically defined purposes, when recruiting engineers or highly skilled employees under the terms of an extended branch agreement or, failing this, a company agreement. Indeed, within a given business sector, company representatives and representative trade unions can define common rules through a branch agreement.
- Fixed-term seniors contracts to encourage the recruitment of seniors.
- Grape harvest contracts.
Form of a fixed-term contract
Fixed-term contracts must be written. If this is not the case, the contractual relationship may be considered tantamount to a permanent contract in the event of a dispute, because the employer will not be able to prove the existence of a fixed-term contract.
A fixed-term contract must also specify:
- The exact reason for which it is being used.
- The start and end dates of the contract.
- A renewal clause, in case the fixed-term contract needs to be extended.
- The minimum contract duration if there is no specific term, i.e. if the end date of the fixed-term contract is not specified in the contract, e.g. when replacing an absent employee.
- The duration of the probationary period.
- The job title.
- The name and professional qualifications of the employee being replaced, if applicable.
- Collective rights.
Fixed-term contracts must be drafted in French. Foreign employees may request a bilingual version or a copy translated into their language for information purposes. The French version of the contract is the reference version.
Renewing fixed-term contracts
A fixed-term contract may be renewed twice for a maximum period of 18 months, unless otherwise provided for in the collective agreement.
A contract can be renewed if:
- It is provided for by a clause in the contract.
- An amendment to this effect is proposed to the employee before their contract expires.
A minimum period of time must elapse between two fixed-term contracts for the same position: the employer must observe a waiting period between the end of the first fixed-term contract and the start of the new fixed-term contract.
Unless a collective agreement provides otherwise, this period is calculated as follows:
- If the total duration of the fixed-term contract is less than 14 days: the waiting period is equal to half of the duration of the fixed-term contract.
- If the total duration of the fixed-term contract is greater than 14 days: the waiting period is equal to one-third of the duration of the previous fixed-term contract.