As we already discussed, a CDI work contract means you have a job forever, or, at least until the contract is ended by mutual agreement with your employer or you quit.
There are five ways to end a job in France, of which three can be litigious.
It’s quite common in France for the end of a work contract to mean a civil suit. There are only a few ways to end a CDI, and only one of them is truly amicable. Here’s the list:
Licenciement pour faute grave
If you’re a terrible, irresponsible employee and your employer fires you for it, it’s a “licenciement pour faute grave.” In other words, you’re fired because you f*&!ed up. In order for your employer to legally fire you for this reason, you must go beyond incompetence. The employer must be able to prove that you’re intentionally trying to “nuire à l’entreprise,” or bring harm to the company. And even then, your employer is required by law to have a few meetings with you to try to correct the problem, send you a lettre recommandé avec avis de réception to prove they’ve contacted you about the problem, and give you proper notice before firing you (usually one month).
Obviously, companies that want to get rid of certain employees cite this often, but their reasons don’t often stand up in court. And even if they DO have a good reason to fire you, they don’t usually go about it the right way. If they miss any of the steps in the process, such as failing to send you a lettre recommandé or preventing you from coming to work without giving you a month’s notice, they can be liable for back pay and/or damages.
If you’re ever fired from a job for “faute grave,” and the employer DOESN’T give you proper notice, continue to go to work anyway. If they physically block you from entering, you can leave. But in that case, you’ll have witnesses that you did not abandon your job (which could make YOU liable to the company).
Regardless of the reason the employer gives, consult an employment attorney for advice on whether your firing was legitimate. Being fired for “faute grave” does not entitle you to unemployment, but winning a court case against your employer could result in earning damages and getting back the right to your allocations chômage. And the courts in France are generally biased towards employees, with up to 80% winning cases against their former employers.
This is the least litigious way to end an employment contract in France, as both the employer and the employee have to agree in order to do a rupture conventionnelle. Basically, the two parties agree to end the work contract within a certain amount of time, at least one month in the future.
If you have a rupture conventionnelle, you retain the right to unemployment and you get your indemnité de rupture, and you have 6 months to contest it if your employer does not respect your rights during the process.
Licenciement pour raisons économique
If your employer is in financial difficulty, the company can eliminate jobs, including yours, practically at will. He’ll still have to pay you the indemnité de rupture, and you’ll get unemployment, but your job is gone.
In order to qualify for layoffs, your employer is not able to hire new people in the same position for a certain amount of time after you lose your job. If you find out after leaving that your employer has hired new people, you may want to ask an employment lawyer to investigate the motivation for hiring the new employees, and contest your firing.
Prise d’acte de la rupture
If your employer has been doing illegal stuff, you can quit your job and ask the courts to requalify your quitting into an unjustified firing. This is called a “prise d’acte de la rupture,” and requires extreme caution and legal consultation.
Basically, this consists of writing a letter to your employer outlining all of the illegal things he did. This could include, for example, failing to properly calculate vacation time and comp time, making you work under the table, forcing you to work without a lunch break, or anything else that violates France’s thorough code of labor laws (more in another post). Essentially, you write a letter to your employer in French stating that the illegal conditions he is imposing on you prevent you from completing your contract, and you send it in recommandé avec avis de réception.
Your quitting takes effect immediately, and you do not continue to work. Then, you have to go to court and prove that your employer was doing illegal stuff. If the court agrees with you, your employer will have to pay you up to six months of salary, plus an indemnité de rupture as if they had fired you without cause, and damages. Of course, it can be very costly to go through a trial or even a negotiation process, but some lawyers will work for a percentage of your indemnity if they think you have a case. The potential winnings are very high, and employees win almost 80% of the time.
If you get a new job, you’ll want to quit your old one and give proper notice. Your convention collective will outline how much notice you have to give. If you’ve only been working at a place for a short time, notice can be as little as one month; if you’ve been an employee for many years, your notice can be up to three months.
Any vacation time you take during this period prolongs the notice period unless your boss agrees. So it’s not like you can give one month’s notice, work for a week, and take the last 3 weeks as vacation time to start your new job. In most cases, that won’t work.
Basically, you’ll want to write a letter to your employer stating that you’re leaving, the length of your préavis according to the convention collective (which can be found on your French payslip), and your theoretical last day.
Quitting does not give you the right to an indemnité de rupture or to unemployment insurance, so only use this option if you already have another source of income lined up.
Have you ever left a job in France? How did you end things with your employer?