In French employment lingo, CDD stands for “contrat à durée déterminée.” If you have a CDD, it means that you’re hired for a temporary position for a specific amount of time.

Usually, CDDs are used to replace workers on parental leave or prolonged sick leave. Many hiring managers will encourage you to accept a CDD (less onerous for the employer) by promising you the possibility that the job will turn into a full time position. In fact, that’s rarely the case.

Here are six things you should know about the contrat à durée determinée before you sign one:

1) It’s a temporary contract that can only be used under certain conditions.

Any contract that is for a short term must contain a valid reason for being for only a limited period of time. In other words, companies can’t just hire short-term workers willy-nilly.

The CDD can be used in three different cases:

  • for seasonal employees (i.e., summer jobs or pre-holiday jobs)
  • for a temporary increase in business that’s not expected to last (i.e. a huge order or new product development that will be for a specific period of time)
  • to replace someone on parental leave or sick leave.

One of these reasons must be specified in the work contract in order for the CDD to be considered valid. If no reason is given, the contract is automatically considered a CDI (contrat à durée indéterminée) with all of the rights that accompany that type of contract.

2) Your employer must provide a written contract within 48 hours of being hired.

Upon hiring you for a CDD, your employer must provide you with a written work contract within 48 hours, containing all of the provisions required in CDDs, or your contract automatically becomes a CDI.

If you receive payslips, but do not get a written contract, you are automatically a CDI employee, as the payslip itself can be considered a binding contract.

3) In most cases, you receive a 10% bonus at the end of your contract.

Because a CDD is considered a “travail précaire,” any company that hires you for a CDD is required to pay you a bonus at the end of your contract equal to 10% of the total amount you earned.

There are two exceptions to this rule.

One exception is for seasonal workers. College students working summer jobs and other seasonal workers are not eligible for the 10% bonus.

The other exception is if they offer to hire you for a CDI. If the company presents a job offer, they don’t have to pay you the bonus, regardless of whether or not you accept.

4) You earn paid vacation time.

When you have a CDD contract, you earn vacation time at the rate of 5 weeks per year, or 2.08 days per month for a full-time job. This is the same rate as everyone else with CDI contracts.

If your contract prevents you from actually taking any vacation time (as some summer jobs do), you’ll get paid for your total vacation time at the end of your contract. Make sure your vacation time is correctly computed on the bottom of your payslip.

5) You can leave your CDD job for a CDI job.

Because the “standard” work contract is considered a CDI, CDIs take priority over CDDs. This means that if you sign a CDD, but then get an offer for a job in CDI, you can take the CDI job without repercussions.

You will have to check the exact term of your contract to determine how much notice you have to give your employer once you are hired with a CDI. Because all French employees have to give at least one month’s notice (and up to three month’s notice) before leaving their jobs, hiring managers are usually understanding about coming up with a start date that respects your obligations to your former employer.

6) Your CDD can be automatically requalified as a CDI.

Again, the CDI is considered the default employment contract, and if your contract doesn’t meet the very specific conditions of a CDD, it is considered a CDI.

Aside from the two reasons mentioned above – no reason given for a CDD or no written contract – your CDD can also be converted into a CDI if you continue working for the company after your CDD theoretically ends.

In other words, if the employer decides they want you to stay for another month at the end of your contract, you automatically have a CDI.

Now, what does this mean concretely?

If you actually have another job to begin after the end of your CDD, you’ll want to make it clear that you are only working until the end of your contract. If you keep working for them, the fact that your CDD turns into a CDI becomes detrimental to you. Why? If you fail to give proper notice for leaving your CDI, you become liable for harming the company and abandoning your job. If the company takes you to court, you could be required to pay them damages.

But it works the other way, too. If your company wants you to keep working after you end your contract, but claims not to have given you a CDI, you have legal recourse. When they do end your contract, then, it’s “without proper cause,” and is considered a “licenciement abusif,” or an illegal firing. Then YOU can take THEM to court, if you choose, and be awarded damages.

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