Living and working in France

18 Octubre 2017

  •   Population: 67 million (2017)
  •   Real GDP growth: 1.2% (2016)
  •   Unemployment rate: 10.1% (2016)

Data source: Eurostat

Eurofound provides research, data and analysis on a wide range of social and work-related topics. This information is largely comparative, but also offers country-specific information for each of the 28 EU Member States. Most information is available in English but some has been translated to facilitate access at national level.

Eurofound strives to strengthen the ongoing link between its own work and national policy debates and priorities related to quality of life and work. Increasingly important in this context is the Europe 2020 growth and jobs strategy launched in 2010, which has five headline targets, covering employment through to social inclusion and poverty reduction. The strategy is implemented in the context of the European Semester process – the EU's annual cycle of economic policy guidance and surveillance – which ensures that Member States keep their budgetary and economic policies in line with their EU commitments through, in part, National Reform Programmes. These programmes form the basis for the European Commission's proposals for country-specific recommendations (CSRs) for each Member State.

European Commission: The European Semester
European Commission: The European Semester - EU country-specific recommendations
European Commission: European Semester documents for France

2015 Eurofound EWCS survey results in France: 35% of people consider their job affecting their health negatively

Survey results

Ability to choose or change
methods of work

Data source: 2015 EWCS survey

Possibility to accumulate overtime
for days off

Data source: 2013 ECS survey

Recent developments

Eurofound contacts in France

Correspondents in France

Correspondents report on topics related to developments in the countries working life and inform Eurofound’s pan-European comparative analysis. Read more

Consortium IR Share and Association Travail, Emploi, Europe, Société (ASTREES)

Eurofound governing board members from France

Eurofound's Governing Board represents the social partners and national governments of all Member States, as well as the European Commission. Read more

Régis Bac Ministry of Labour, Employment, Professional Training and Social Dialogue

Thierry Durnerin European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and of Enterprises of General Economic Interest (CEEP)

Pierre-Gaël Loreal FNCB CFDT French Democratic Federation of Labour 

Related content

Other country-specific information may be available in certain areas on demand. Please feel free to contact your country contact at Eurofound for this or any other information at

Living in France

Quality of life

Quality of life

Many of the EQLS indicators about the quality of life in France have remained relatively stable in recent years. For instance, life satisfaction stayed at 7.2 in both 2011 and 2016, similar to the EU28 average of 7.1 (on a scale from 1 to 10). However, the share of respondents reporting difficulties in making ends meet peaked in 2011 at 49%, subsequently decreasing to reach 43% in 2016. However, this is still higher than the pre-crisis figure of 37%.

Overall, 59% of respondents in France are optimistic about their own future, and 42% are optimistic about their children’s or grandchildren’s future. Both of the figures are lower than their respective EU28 averages (own future at 64%; children’s future at 57%).

Life satisfactionMean (1-10)
Taking all things together on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy would you say you are?Mean (1-10)
Optimism about own futureAgree & strongly agree---59%
Optimism about children’s or grandchildren’s futureAgree & strongly agree---42%
Take part in sports or physical exerciseAt least once a week--49%43%
In general, how is your health?Very good-23%24%33%
WHO-5 mental wellbeing indexMean (1-100)-626166
Making ends meetWith some difficulty, difficulty, and great difficulty38%37%49%43%
I feel I am free to decide how to live my lifeStrongly agree--31%23%
I find it difficult to deal with important problems that come up in my lifeAgree & strongly agree---21%
When things go wrong in my life, it generally takes me a long time to get back to normalAgree & strongly agree---29%

Work-life balance

Work-life balance

Self-reported work–life balance problems have increased in France since 2007, following a trend observed also in many other EU Member States. In 2007, 47% of respondents in France reported being ‘too tired from work to do some of the household jobs which need to be done’ at least several times a month. In 2011, the same indicator had increased to 56% and continued to increase, reaching 64% in 2016. This is also slightly higher than the respective EU28 average of 59% in 2016. There are no large gender differences in perceived work–life balance problems in France.

(At least several times a month)   
I have come home from work too tired to do some of the household jobs which need to be doneTotal48%47%56%64%
It has been difficult for me to fulfil my family responsibilities because of the amount of time I spend on the jobTotal22%17%26%36%
I have found it difficult to concentrate at work because of my family responsibilitiesTotal10%7%12%20%

Quality of society

Quality of society

Many of the indicators about the quality of society have remained fairly stable in France in recent years. However, perceived tensions between poor and rich people have decreased after a peak in 2011. In 2011, 55% of respondents in France reported ‘a lot of’ tension between poor and rich people, and in 2016 this share had decreased to 39%. However, this figure is still higher than the respective EU28 average of 29%.

Perceived tensions between different racial and ethnic groups have remained fairly stable in recent years in France. In 2016, 51% of respondents reported ‘a lot of’ this type of tension. However, this is significantly higher than the EU28 average of 41%.

Social exclusion indexMean (1-5)-
Trust in peopleMean (1-10)
Involvement in unpaid voluntary work% "at least once a month"--18%15%
Tension between poor and rich people% reporting 'a lot of tension'46%43%55%39%
Tension between different racial and ethnic groups% reporting 'a lot of tension'64%53%50%51%
I feel safe when I walk alone after darkStrongly agree- -46%

Quality of public services

Quality of public services

Quality ratings for seven public services

Note: scale of 1-10, Source: EQLS 2016.

Many of the quality ratings for public services have improved in France. For instance, the rating for the state pension system increased from 5.0 in 2011 to 5.5 in 2016 (on a scale from 1 to 10), which is also higher than the respective EU28 average of 5.0. The quality rating for social housing increased as well, from 5.6 in 2011 to 6.4 in 2016, now higher than the EU28 average of 5.6. Other notable increases since 2011 can be observed in the quality rating for the education system (from 6.1 in 2011 to 6.7 in 2016) and health services (from 6.9 to 7.4 during the same time period). 

Health servicesMean (1-10)
Education systemMean (1-10)
Public transportMean (1-10)
Childcare servicesMean (1-10)-
Long-term care servicesMean (1-10)--6.56.9
Social housingMean (1-10)--5.66.4
State pension systemMean (1-10)

Working life in France


  • Autor: Sebastian Schulze-Marmeling, Hélène Tissandier and Frédéric Turlan
  • Institution: IR Share and Université Paris-Dauphine

This profile describes the key characteristics of working life in France. It aims to complement other EurWORK research by providing the relevant background information on the structures, institutions and relevant regulations regarding working life. This includes indicators, data and regulatory systems on the following aspects: actors and institutions, collective and individual employment relations, health and well-being, pay, working time, skills and training, and equality and non-discrimination at work. The profiles are updated annually.


Highlights – Working life in 2017

Highlights – Working life in 2017

Author: Frederic Turlan, IR Share
Working paper: France: Developments in working life 2017

The main working life development in 2017 was the launch of the labour market reform to reduce mass unemployment that has persisted in France since the 1980s, with its first phase the reform of the Labour code, adopted soon after the election of President Emmanuel Macron and the nomination of the new government.

The reform was implemented in September 2017 through several decrees that made huge changes to the Labour Code which take into account long-standing business demands that clearly favour employers. However, the government aims to demonstrate that the weakening of labour law protections will ultimately be compensated for through new unemployment insurance, apprenticeship schemes and vocational training reforms. The government’s idea is to build flexicurity à la françaiseincreasing the resources to train and re-skill low-qualified employees, the unemployed and NEETS that are currently largely overlooked by the vocational training scheme despite the billions of euros invested each year.

Beyond the scope of the reform, the main impact on social dialogue is that it has weakened the position of the social partners. During the presidency of François Hollande, the social partners were involved in the design of different reforms at national level in the framework of ‘social democracy’. President Macron, however, has adopted a new approach whereby trade unions have a role to play at company level, which explains his willingness to decentralise collective bargaining within companies, but they are not legally entitled to endorse social reforms at national level. This is the opposite stance of some trade unions, such as the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFTD), who aim to be an instrument of ‘social transformation’. Even though the social partners were consulted in the framework of the design of the different ordinances, they merely assisted in the changes without playing any important role.

The CFDT were not given any opportunity to reinforce the participation of employees into the decision-making process within the company. The General Confederation of Labour (CGT) refused to participate in the consultation and organised several demonstrations, but without any success. Only the Workers’ Force union (FO) were able – through the support of its general secretary – to preserve an important role for branch-level agreements.

Furthermore, the reform jeopardises the role of trade unions within companies: companies with less than 50 employees will now be allowed to negotiate collective agreements without trade unions and can organise the merger of different information and consultation bodies within companies creating a single ‘social and economic committee’. This will lead to a reduction in the number of mandates allowing employee representatives and, therefore, trade unions. The latter fear that their role in negotiations is declining.

On the employers’ side, the climate is more favourable, as the reform met many of their requests. However, they have cooperated closely with the five representative trade unions to protect paritarisme (the system in which employers and unions collaborate in a joint decision-making process) from President Macron’s plan to nationalise the unemployment scheme.

In a unanimous common declaration adopted on 24 July, the social partners have defended paritarisme, based ‘both on their knowledge of the functioning of the labour market closer to realities on the ground and the reactivity they have repeatedly demonstrated in the adaptation of the rules of compensation’. Though the social partners play an important role in the management of the vocational training system, they also have a lot to lose financially.

Key figures

Key figures

Comparative figures on working life in France




% (point) change







GDP per capita







Unemployment rate – total







Unemployment rate – women







Unemployment rate – men







Unemployment rate – youth







Employment rate – total







Employment rate – women







Employment rate – men







Employment rate – youth







*metropolitan figures
**provisional data

Source: Eurostat - Real GDP per capita (chain linked volumes [2010], in EUR) and percentage change 2011-2016 (both based on tsdec100). Unemployment rate by sex and age - annual average, % [une_rt_a]; Employment rate by sex and age - annual average, % [lfsi_emp_a].



Economic and labour market context

Between 2011 and 2016, France’s GDP increased 1.6% and the EU average for the same period was 4.3%. Unemployment figures during this time saw some increases in all categories, where rates in 2016 are slightly above the EU average. Employment figures for 2011–2016 for France are only available for the metropolitan areas. The largest increase was in female employment (2.2 percentage points), which reached 67.9% in 2016. The youth employment rate decreased 0.7 percentage points, standing at 37.2% in 2016, below the EU average (41.6%) for the same year. 

More information on:

Legal context

The whole labour legislation, including regulations regarding employers’ representation, trade union representation and collective bargaining, is integrated into the Labour Code.

Since 2015, the Labour Code has changed significantly, the first paramount reform being the introduction of the law on employment and social dialogue. The aim of law 2015-994 of 17 August 2015 is to simplify the organisation of information and consultation bodies as well as to ensure the representation of employees working in companies with fewer than 11 workers.

But above all, the socialist government has launched a major labour law reform in November 2015. The aim is to reform the Labour code by 2018 that is likely to comprise three levels: 1/'Public social order' provisions, to which no exemption can be agreed; 2/Topics open to negotiation in industry or company-level collective agreements. 3/Provisions applicable in whenever there is no industry or company-level agreement. The reform (l Law 2016-1088 of 8 August 2016) contains important new rules on working time which give precedence to company-level agreements over branch-level ones.

The labour law reform also set up a so-called individual occupational account (compte personnel d’activité, CPA) that entered into force on 1 January 2017. The new measure aims to disassociate individual employment rights from the employment contract. Each employee will have a CPA which they will keep throughout their career.

Industrial relations context

French industrial relations have always been tense and dominated by the strong involvement of the state and the law. In 1884, the law recognised the freedom of association and the first laws related to collective bargaining were approved in 1919. A first step towards their generalisation and extended coverage was achieved by law in 1950, establishing the sectorial level as the main one for bargaining. In 1971, collective bargaining at ‘inter-sectoral (cross-industry) level was also established. Finally, the ‘Auroux laws’ of 1982 developed collective bargaining at workplace or company level, also establishing an annual obligation to negotiate wages and working time.

There is a traditional lack of mutual recognition between the social partners that could explain the interventionist role of the state in industrial and social matters, but many changes have taken place in the last 30 years.

In recent decades, a decentralised bargaining system has been developed, giving companies more autonomy from both labour legislation and national/sectoral collective agreements.

With this respect two laws introduced in the 2000s have been significant leading to profound upheavals in the French industrial relations system: a reform of collective bargaining which materialised through a national cross-sectorial agreement in 2004; and a reform of the principles governing the representativeness of trade unions in 2008. More recently, social partners failed to modernise the system of industrial relations and the Parliament has finally adopted a law on this issue that introduces changes for social dialogue at the workplace.

In 2016, the last labour law reform has increased the decentralisation of collective bargaining giving more weight to social dialogue at company-level.

Actors and institutions

Actors and institutions

Trade unions, employers’ organisations and public institutions play a key role in the governance of the employment relationship, working conditions and industrial relations structures. They are interlocking parts in a multilevel system of governance that includes the European, national, sectoral, regional (provincial or local) and company levels. This section looks into the main actors and institutions and their role in France.

Public authorities involved in regulating working life

The state continues to play a crucial role in French industrial relations. The system is highly regulated, the Government sets the minimum wage and the Ministry of Labour extends virtually all collective agreements, and an increasing number of issues are subject to compulsory negotiations at sectoral or company level.

In recent years, however, a series of laws has been approved delegating the regulation of certain issues to social partners, typically at company level. For instance, there are obligations, sometimes on an annual or multi-annual basis, to negotiate on wages; the organisation of working time; gender equality; on professional insertion of disabled workers; financial participation and employment of older workers. On some of the issues, a sectoral agreement may substitute negotiations at company level.

Furthermore, the last labour law reform of August 2016 heralds a wide-ranging reform that aims to give company-level agreements precedence over those at sectoral level or the law itself if the latter so provides. This reversal is already provided for in the bill on an experimental basis in connection with the legislation on working time. It thereby establishes a decentralisation of collective bargaining.

Individual employment rights are enforced by the French employment tribunal system (conseils de prud’hommes). Cases are presented in front of a panel of four lay judges composed of two representatives from both the unions and the employers. Lay judges used to be elected, but the universal suffrage is expected to be repealed, according to a draft reform bill currently under review. A substantial reform of the employment tribunal system entered into force in 2015.


Since 1966, five trade union confederations have been deemed representative at national level. Prior to 2008, each trade union at a local or sectoral level that was affiliated to one of these confederations was also considered to be representative (‘presumption of representativeness’). These principles were modified in 2008 with the law on ‘social democracy and working time reform’. Regardless of affiliation, representativeness now depends primarily on the ‘electoral audience’: therefore, to be representative and able to participate in negotiations, a trade union must win at least 10% of the votes at workplace level, the ratio being 8% at sectoral industry level.

In terms of national cross-sectoral representativeness, the second round of elections in 2017 has resulted in granting the status to all five unions that had been considered representative previously: the General Confederation of Labour (Confédération générale du travail, CGT); the French Democratic Federation of Labour (Confédération française démocratique du travail, CFDT); the General Confederation of Labour – Force ouvrière (Confédération générale du travail – Force Ouvrière, CGT-FO); the French Christian Workers’ Confederation (Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens, CFTC); and the French Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff – General Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff (Confédération française de l’encadrement – confédération générale des cadres, CFE-CGC).

Similar rules have also been adopted to measure the representativeness of employers’ organisations.

More information on representativeness of the main social partner organisations can be found in Eurofound’s representativeness study of the cross-industry social partners or in Eurofound’s sectoral representativeness studies.

Trade unions

About trade union representation

The term ‘paradox of French unionism’ (Wolff, 2008) describes the combination of very low union density but strong presence at workplace level (see below). Trade union density in France is among the lowest in Europe. In 2013, only some 11% of the French workforce belong to a union, according to the Ministry of Labour (Dares). This proportion has been relatively stable over the past 10 years. Unions are particularly strong in the public sector – with a trade union membership of 20% in 2013 -and among permanent full-time employees.

Observers bring forward a range of explanations, two of which are particularly prominent. First, French unions are weak in terms of membership, but prominently present at the workplace and union membership is often closely linked to union engagement. Elsewhere almost one French union member in five is an active employee representative. Second, virtually all collective agreements are extended to the entire sector leading to a very high coverage rate of above 90% and this invites employees to ‘free ride’, enjoying the benefits negotiated by unions without having to commit to union membership.

Trade union membership and trade union density








Trade union density in terms of active employees






OECD/Visser (2014), based on administrative data from the main French union confederations

Trade union membership in 1,000s






OECD/Visser (2014), based on administrative data from the main French union confederations

Trade union density in terms of active employees






DARES (2016) La syndicalisation en France’, May 2016

Main trade union confederations and federations

Trade unions are national organisations. France has five trade unions recognised as representative at a national level. They are mentioned in the table below. National representativeness also gives unions the same status in all sectors. All membership figures are self-reported and are likely to be overestimated.

Other unions have significant influence but do not yet have representative status at national cross-sectoral level. However, they might well conduct collective bargaining at company level or, if they meet the sectoral threshold in the latest elections, sectoral level.

Main trade union confederations and federations

Long name



Involved in collective bargaining

Confédération générale du travail / General Confederation of Labour


671,488 (2015)


Confédération Française démocratique du Travail / French Democratic Confederation of Labour


869,281 (2015)


Confédération Générale du Travail-Force Ouvrière / General Confederation of Labour – Force ouvrière


500,000 (2015)


Confédération des Travailleurs Chrétiens / French Christian Workers’ Confederation


135,000 (2014)


Confédération Générale de l’Encadrement-Confédération générale des cadre / French Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff – General Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff


160,000 (2015)


For the second time since the reform of trade union representativeness in 2008 (see above), the popularity of private sector trade unions at the national, inter-professional and sector levels has been evaluated by their share of worker’s votes. On 31 March 2017, the Ministry of Labour published data based on the results of workplace elections. However, the participation rate was only 42.76%.

The five main trade union confederations with membership across the entire economy maintained their representativeness. The CFDT had 30.32% of the votes, slightly ahead of the CGT with 28.57%. The CGT-FO came third, with 17.93% of the votes, followed by CFE-CGC at 12.27% and the CFTC at 9.49%, retaining its status of representativeness despite the predictions of a number of experts that the union would fail to achieve the threshold of 8%. According to the published data (in French PDF), the recently created trade unions UNSA (Union of autonomous trade unions) and SUD (Solidarity, Unity, Democracy), which tends to take a rather radical position, both failed to reach the 8% threshold at the national level, with a score of 5.35% and 3.46% respectively.

The reform of trade union representativeness by the Act of 20 August 2008 led to the profound modification of the French trade union landscape at sectoral and company level. Some organisations, such as the CFTC and CFE-CGC, have lost their representativeness in a significant number of branches. Conversely, other organisations such as UNSA could see recognition of their representativeness at sectoral level.

Employers’ organisations

About employers’ representation

Membership of employer organisations is voluntary in France, with organisations competing to attract members. Most of the country’s employers are members of at least one employer organisation. In contrast with the trade unions, employers’ organisational density was considered to be quite high (Traxler, 2004). Yet a recent study by Pignoni using 2011 survey data shows that only 44% of all private sector companies with more than 10 employees are members of an employers’ association (Pignoni, 2015a). This indicates that previous estimates, which added the total membership figures of all confederations, strongly overestimated the representativeness of employers’ associations in France. The reason for this is that many companies are members of several organisations.

Employers’ organisations – membership and density







Employers’ organisation density in terms of active employees





Visser (2014), estimations for 2010

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments (*)





European Company Survey 2013

Employers’ organisation membership in private sector establishments





Pignoni (2015b)

(*) Percentage of employees working in an establishment that is a member of any employer organisation that is involved in collective bargaining.

Main employers’ organisations

The Movement of French Enterprises (MEDEF) was established in 1998 to succeed the former National Council of French Employers (Conseil national du patronat français, CNPF). The MEDEF is a multi-layered confederation of sectoral and territorial organisations bringing together companies with more than 10 employees. It organises 76 federations that cover some 600 associations whose members are companies working in the same sector and 13 regional organisations and over 100 departmental or local organisations. It seeks to cover all companies, whatever their size, in all geographic and professional sectors..

On 6 January 2017, the General Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises (CGPME) changed its name to the Confederation of small and medium-sized employers’ organisations (Confédération des petites et moyennes entreprises, CPME). CPME is organised into four national sections: commerce, services, industry and crafts. It organises 200 territorial unions and about 200 federation or association of trades.

On 17 November 2016, the Craftwork Employers’ Association (UPA) merged with the National Union of Liberal Professions (UNAPL) to create a new body, the Union of local businesses (Union des entreprises de proximité / U2P). It organises 119 federations or associations of trades and 110 regional or local organisations.

There is also an employers’ organisation representing the not-for-profit sector, the Union of employers of the social economy (Union des employeurs de l’économie sociale et solidaire) UDES, formerly USGERES) that represents 80% of the sector’s employers.

Main employers’ organisations and confederations

Long name




Involved in collective bargaining (*)

Mouvement des Entreprises de France / Movement of French Entreprises





Confédération des Petites et Moyennes Entreprises / Confederation of small and medium-sized employers’ organisations, representing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)





Union des entreprises de proximité (U2P) / Union of local businesses, representing liberal profession and craft workers





(*) at national interprofessional level.

In June 2013, the three biggest employers’ organisations in France (Medef, CGPME, UPA) adopted a common position on the subject of representativeness. Although several issues remain unresolved, particularly the validity of agreements, the proposals clarifies the extent to which an employers’ organisation can be judged representative of an industry in relation to its size. The government took account of this position and presented a draft bill on employers’ representativeness on 23 December 2013 that was merged with the draft bill on the reform of vocational training. The reform was adopted in March 2014 (Loi n° 2014-288 du 5 mars 2014 relative à la formation professionnelle, à l'emploi et à la démocratie sociale).

According to a decree of 13 June 2015, to be representative at sectoral level, employers' organisations have to include a number of member companies representing at least 8% of all companies adhering to employers' organisations in the corresponding branch (member companies’ audience) or 8% of employees employed by the same organisation at the national, interprofessional or professional level (employees’ employed audience). The decree gives practical details on how to calculate the threshold of 8%. It also explains how employers’ organisations can oppose a collective agreement if they represent affiliated companies that employ more than 50% of the workforce of companies affiliated to employers’ organisations within the sector. The need to demonstrate its representativeness based on the number of members is likely to intensify the current rivalry between employers' organisations. The reform comes into effect in 2017. For the first time, the audience of employers' professional organisations was measured at national and interprofessional level as well as at the level of professional branches, and published on 23 April 2017. The results at national and interprofessional level for the three main organisations are as follows:

Employers’ organisations

Member companies’ audience

Employees’ employed audience










Tripartite and bipartite bodies and concertation

There is a purely consultative national tripartite body through which employer and trade union confederations can try to influence government policymaking. The Environmental, Economic and Social Council (Conseil économique, social et environnemental, CESE) is made up of representatives of employer and trade union confederations and other interest groups of the civil society (tripartite plus body) such as consumers, NGOs and experts nominated by the government.

Social partners continue to be heavily involved in the management of certain social security provisions, such as public health insurance, unemployment benefits and social welfare boards. The social partners play also a central role in the supplementary private health insurance system (mutuelles) and pension plans. Furthermore, they are involved in the system of vocational training. The national system of policy concertation is complemented by a tripartite social dialogue in development at the regional or local level. Law 2007-130 of 31 January, 2007 on modernisation of social dialogue (in French) makes it obligatory to consult national-level representatives of trade unions and employers’ organisations beforehand when proposing reforms in the field of industrial relations, employment and vocational training. The government should provide these organisations with a policy document presenting the ‘diagnoses, objectives and principal options’ of the proposed reform. The social partners will then be able to indicate whether they intend to embark on negotiations and how much time they need to reach an agreement. This procedure will not apply in ‘emergency situations’; in such cases, the government would have to justify its decision, which can be legally challenged.

When drawing up a draft law following the consultation procedure, the government is not obliged to adopt the content of a collective agreement as it is. However, depending on the issue at hand, it must submit the bill to:

  • the National Collective Bargaining Commission (Commission nationale de la négociation collective, CNNC) for reforms concerning industrial relations;
  • the National Employment Committee (Conseil national de l’emploi, CNE) for reforms in relation to employment;
  • the National Council for Lifelong Vocational Training (Conseil national de la formation professionnelle tout au long de la vie, CNFPTLV) for reforms with regard to training.

The social partners that are represented in these bodies can assess whether or not the government’s proposals are in line with the relevant collective agreement and, if necessary, to give their opinion.

Main tripartite and bipartite bodies




Issues covered


Tripartite plus


Economic policy, public health, finance




Collective bargaining








Vocational training

Workplace-level employee representation

In France, employees are represented through trade unions and structures directly elected by all workers. Representation for workers has been obligatory since 1945 at all workplaces with more than 11 or 50 employees, depending on the structure. These bodies are largely regulated by law. Nevertheless, there is room for regulation through collective bargaining as the social partners can create information and consultation bodies through collective agreement, to improve information and consultation within the company. They may negotiate improvements in facilities for employee representatives such as more paid time off or more resources.

Trade unions

Since 1968, trade union rights have been recognised by companies and trade unions have been entitled to appoint shop stewards (délégués syndicaux, Labour Code, Articles L2143-1 to L2146-2), who have the power to negotiate and sign collective agreements at company level. The other worker representation bodies do not have this power if there is at least one shop steward. Since the reform of representativeness in 2008, unions not recognised as representative in an undertaking can appoint a ‘representative of the union’ (représentant de la section syndicale, RSS, Labour Code, Articles L2142-1-1 to L2142-1-4) who has similar rights to an appointed shop steward except the right to negotiate collective agreements.

Works councils

The council is a legal entity, and as a collegial body, is composed of members elected by the employees, representatives of the company management and representatives nominated by the unions.

Works councils can be formed at either company level (comité d’entreprise – Labour Code, Article L2321-1) or establishment level (comité d’établissement). Works councils receive information from employers on issues such as the economic and social aspects of the company and new technology. They also respond to formal consultations by employers on topics such as redundancies and vocational training (without formal negotiation power), and are responsible for managing social and cultural activities for which they have a budget (0.2% of the company’s annual payroll) (Labour Code, Articles L2323-1 to L2323-5).

If the employer has fewer than 300 workers, after consultation with staff representatives it can decide to establish a single body (Délégation unique du personnel, DUP, Labour Code, Article L2326-1 to L2326-39. This does not replace the Works Council but assimilates the CE (comité d’établissement), DP (délégués du personnel) and the committee deals with health and safety issues (see below) under one body, which performs the tasks of both by those elected.

In a group of companies, a group-level works council can be created (comité de groupe, Labour Code, Articles L2331-1 to L2335-1), which enjoys similar rights to those of ordinary works councils.

In a multi-establishment company, works councils also form a central works council (comité central d’entreprise, CCE, Labour Code Article L2327-1 to L2327-14) which covers establishment works councils (comité d’établissement, Labour Code, Articles L2327-15 to L2327-19)

A company with a Europe-wide operation can create a European Works Council (Comité d’entreprise européen, CEE, Labour Code, Articles L2341-1 to L2346-1) which can be merged, according to the Labour Code, with the group-level works council, if employees’ representatives agree.

Staff delegates

The staff delegates (délégués du personnel, Labour Code, Article L2311-1) should be elected by all workers in all private sector establishments with more than 10 employees and are responsible for presenting individual and collective grievances to management and ensuring the implementation of legislation and collective agreements (Labour Code, Articles L2313-1 to L2313-12). SMEs with fewer than 11 employees have no legal requirement to create an information-consultation body or to hold an election for a workplace representative. However, a decision to create one can be taken by collective agreement.

Since a law of 17 August 2015, bipartite regional committees (commissions régionales paritaires interprofessionnelles) will be set up in the 13 French regions to offer the 4.6 million employees working in SMEs with less than 11 employees a coverage by an information and consultative body (Labour Code, Article L23-111-1). The role of the committee is: to provide legal information or advice to employees and employers; to discuss and adopt advises or statements about issues related to SMEs (professional training, employment, health and safety, forecast management of skills).

Health and safety committee

In the private sector, a separate committee deals with health and safety issues (Comité d’hygiène, de santé et des conditions de travail, CHSCT, Labour Code, Articles L4611-1 to L4611-7). In the public sector, since the reform of 2011, the former Health and Safety Committees (comité d’hygiène et de sécurité) have become Health and safety and working conditions committees (Comité d’hygiène, de santé et des conditions de travail, CHSCT). They are no longer a joint committee and only staff representatives have the right to vote. They should be set up in establishments with more than 50 employees.

Technical committees

Information and consultation (I&C) bodies also exist in the public sector, but their organisation is different to that in the private sector. The main consultative bodies within the public services are the technical committees that can be created on four levels: ministerial technical committee (comités techniques ministériels), proximity technical committees (comités techniques de proximité), common or single technical committees (Comités techniques uniques, Comités techniques communs) or specific technical committees (comités techniques spéciaux).

The reform of collective bargaining in the public sector brought about by the law of July 2011 alters the way trade unions’ representativeness is assessed in the public sector, in line with regulations already in place in the private sector since 2008. Since this legislation, workplace elections determine the extent to which trade unions are involved in negotiations, can sign agreements and hold seats on tripartite advisory bodies.

The technical committee has different competences depending on the civil service divisions it belongs to, whether national civil service, public hospitals or local government.

Regulation, composition and competences of the bodies




Competences of the body

Involved in company level collective bargaining?

Threshold/rules when they need to be/can be set up

Trade union representation/Délégué syndical (DS)


Trade union delegate(s)


50 employees

Works councils/Comité d’enterprise/comité d’établissement (CE)


Elected employee representatives, management representative

Under certain conditions and only if no trade union representation is present

50 employees

Staff delegates/Délégués sur personnel (DP)


Elected staff representative(s)

Under certain conditions and only if no trade union representation is present

11 employees

Single representation body/Délégation unique du personnel (DUP)


Members of works council, health and safety committee and staff representatives, management representative for some of its functions

Under certain conditions and only if no trade union representation is present

Possible for companies with fewer than 300 employees

Health and safety committee/Comité d'hygiène, de sécurité et des conditions de travail (CHSCT)


Representatives elected by the works’ council or staff delegates, management representative


50 employees

Employee representation at establishment level

In the figure, we see a comparison between France and European Union for the people with 'Establishment size : All' when asked 'Official structure of employee representation present at establishment'. For the 'Yes' answer, France's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'No' answer, France's score is lower than the European Union score. The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: ECS 2013. Private sector establishments with more than 10 employees. Eurofound data visualisation.

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining

Bargaining system

Collective bargaining in France is predominantly conducted at sectoral level. Typically, central agreements are concluded between employers’ associations and unions at industry level. Subsequently, social partners frequently apply to the Ministry of Labour for an extension of most provisions of the agreement, which is granted in virtually all cases. Therefore, the coverage rate of collective bargaining is estimated to be above 90%. Decentralisation of sectoral bargaining started from the early 1980s (‘Auroux laws’), but the principle of favourability that forbids company agreements from providing less favourable provisions than higher-level agreements was maintained. This principle has been diluted through more recent reforms in 2004, 2008 and 2013. Furthermore, with the labour law reform of 2016, the decentralization of collective bargaining went a step further, as the law gives company-level agreements precedence over those at sectoral level or the law itself if the latter so provides. This reversal is already provided for, since 1 January 2017, in connection with the legislation on working time. It thereby establishes a decentralisation of collective bargaining.

Wage bargaining coverage

Wage bargaining coverage is very high in France and the ECS figures seem to underestimate the real coverage. In reality, almost all employees are covered by sectoral national wage agreements. Latest national data are outdated, but they show that coverage increased from 93.7% to 97.7% for employees in the private sector between 1997 and 2004. The survey, on which the figures are based (ACEMO), has been discontinued.

Collective wage bargaining coverage of employees from different sources


% employees covered



Any level


2013 – ECS


Any level


2010 – SES


Any levels


Estimate national correspondent

… of all private sector employees

Sources: Eurofound, European Company Survey 2013 (ECS), private sector companies with establishments >10 employees (NACE B-S) – multiple answers possible; Eurostat, Structure of Earnings survey, companies >10 employees (NACE B-S), single answer: more than 50% of employees covered by such an agreement.

Bargaining levels

Working time is set by law, but its organisation is negotiated at company and sectoral level. As the legislator made negotiations at company level compulsory, it is the company level, where working time arrangements which differ from the statutory 35 hours week are mainly re-negotiated. Wages are negotiated mainly at sectoral level, but also frequently at company level because the legislation stipulates that employers (in a company with over 50 employees) have to launch wage negotiations each year. However, the minimum wage is fixed by law and has to be respected by sectoral or company-level agreements.

A restructuring of sectoral collective agreements (conventions collectives de branche) is underway since 2016, having been launched by the publication of a decree that sets out the restructuring procedure. Over a period of three years, the aim is to reduce the current 700 branches to around 200.

Levels of collective bargaining 2016


National level (intersectoral)

Sectoral level

Company level



Working time


Working time


Working time

Principal or dominant level





Important but not dominant level




Existing level




(*) Since 1 January 2017


Minimum wages are determined at sectoral level, but since 2013 regulation, company agreements may under certain conditions negotiate temporary agreements that provide for lower pay rates in exchange for employment security. Since 2008, company agreements may adjust overtime regulation, which has enforced working time negotiations at company level. The labour law reform of 2016 has increased overtime payment adjustment through company-level agreement. In general, however, the principle of favourability towards higher level agreements applied, excepted on working time issues, until the Labour code reform will enter into force by 2018.

Timing of the bargaining rounds

There is no clear trend, but wage bargaining activity peaks at the beginning and the end of the year, and in the months before the French summer holidays in August.


The decentralisation of collective bargaining leads to a very weak coordination of wage bargaining. Company-level social partners have important autonomy to negotiate on wage evolution as only minimum rates are negotiated on the sectoral level. In many branches, negotiated minimum wages are still lower than the legal minimum wage that has to be respected. There is little horizontal coordination.

Extension mechanisms

Extension mechanisms are used extensively. This practice means declaring the terms of a collective agreement, negotiated between the representative organisations within a subsector (‘branche’), compulsory for all the employees and employers in that subsector. In order to extend a collective agreement, social partners have to ask the Labour ministry to make a ministerial order. A great number of national sectoral wage agreements are extended resulting in very high coverage rates.

Derogation mechanisms

New legislation on collective bargaining passed in 2008 allows for company agreements to depart from the principle of favourability, but explicitly excludes minimum wage levels negotiated at sectoral level. Recent changes have introduced the possibility for company agreements to provide less favourable pay levels in exchange for job security when the company faces economic difficulties.

The practice to include in collective agreements provisions with opening clauses or opt-out clauses is very rare.

Expiry of collective agreements

Sectoral wage agreements do usually not expire. Social partners negotiate annually at sectoral level. If no agreement can be reached, the previous agreement remains in place.

Other aspects of working life addressed in collective agreements

Equality and retaining older workers in employment are relatively new topics that have recorded steady increases over past years, also as a consequence of legislation that obliges social partners to negotiate regularly on gender issues and employment of older workers. The commitment of the social partners to negotiate is due to the historic industrial relations environment, as companies are obliged to negotiate annually on a range of topics (on wages, working time, organisation of work, collective health insurance, financial participation etc) or on a multi-annual basis (gender equality, the employment of disabled workers). Commonly, the commitment is to negotiate but not to reach an agreement. However, on issues related to gender equality or older workers, the employer has to reach an agreement, or if the social partners fail to agree, to adopt a plan of action.

Industrial action and disputes

Industrial action and disputes

Legal aspects

The right to strike applies to all employees whether or not there is a trade union involved. Although not all and not even the majority of the employees must be involved, an individual can only go on strike when their action is in relation to national strike action.

In order to be considered as a strike, the action must fulfil three conditions.

  • A complete work stoppage.
  • Consultation with the workforce.
  • Strikers have to issue demands that are related to the terms and conditions of their employment (for instance related to wages, working conditions, or restructuring).

If the three requirements are not met, the strike is considered unlawful. Employees participating in unlawful strikes are not protected by strike legislation and may be sanctioned or dismissed. Unlawful strikes include, for instance, go-slows and acts of sabotage, strikes concerning a particular obligation that is part of the employment contract (such as on-call duty), repeated blockades or occupations of the company without collective work stoppage or employee consultation, and strikes at company level that are purely political.

In the private sector and with the exception of public transport, there is no obligation to inform the employer or to attempt to reach an amicable agreement. There is also no regulation of the minimum or maximum duration of a strike. Occupying company premises and preventing non-strikers from working is also unlawful action.

If the strike is in line with legislation, picketers are protected from sanctions and dismissal on grounds of their participation in the strike. Management may retain a ‘proportional’ part of the striker’s salary and all extra payments, such as compensation for travel expenses.

The employer must provide work and remunerate employees that do not participate in the strike unless they can prove that exercising any activity was impossible as a consequence of the strike.

Industrial action developments 2012–2014







Working days lost per 1000 employees






Percentage of companies that have experienced a strike






Percentage of employees working in companies that have experienced a strike






Source: DARES (2016) ‘Les grèves en 2014’, Dares Résultats n°85, December 2016.

Dispute resolution mechanisms

Collective dispute resolution mechanisms

According to Article L2522 of the French Labour Code, all work-related collective conflicts may be subject to conciliation. Therefore, there is a network of Regional Conciliation Commissions and one National Conciliation Commission. These tripartite instances can be called upon in case of any collective conflict. Their composition is usually determined by sectoral agreement. These bodies or the public authorities may also launch a mediation to to narrow the views (art. L2523-1). However, the mechanisms are not compulsory and, in fact, rarely used.

Individual dispute resolution mechanisms

Individual dispute resolution is very rare in France. The point was raised in the Lacarabats report and has been addressed in recent reforms on the employment tribunal system.

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations are the relationship between the individual worker and their employer. This relationship is shaped by legal regulation and by the outcomes of social partner negotiations over the terms and conditions governing the employment relationship. This section looks into the start and termination of the employment relationship and entitlements and obligations in France.

Start and termination of the employment relationship

Requirements regarding an employment contract

The minimum working age is 18 years, with derogations for those aged 16 and above for certain roles in the workplace, such as apprenticeships.

An employment contract exists from the time when an individual (the employee) commits to work for and under the management of another person (the employer). Employment contracts should be issued in written form.

Dismissal and termination procedures

The employment contract implies a state of subordination for the employee and grants the employer the right to take disciplinary action against misconduct. Dismissal must be justified by a ‘real and serious cause’. The employer has to comply with strict procedures. This must begin with a letter hand-delivered or sent by registered post to the employee’s home address, inviting them to attend a preliminary meeting. The grounds for considering dismissal must be clearly stated and the meeting must be held on a date at least five days after the letter is due to be delivered to the employee. The letter must also inform the employee that they are entitled to be accompanied at the meeting by a fellow employee or employee representative.

Other termination procedures are: resignation (an employee must prove a clear and unequivocal will to resign); retirement (at the employee’s initiative before he is 70, or at the employer’s initiative after the employee’s 70th birthday) or mutual termination (rupture conventionnelle) which is an agreement between both parties and termination is subject to Labour Inspectorate approval.

See also further information on unemployment benefit provisions in France.

Entitlements and obligations

Parental, maternity and paternity leave

Statutory leave arrangements

Maternity leave

Maximum duration

Mothers are required to take a minimum of eight weeks’ maternity leave, but are entitled to 16 weeks’ leave (usually six weeks prior to the expected date of delivery and ten weeks after). Two additional weeks prior to delivery may be awarded in the case of a pregnancy with complications. On a doctor's recommendation, the mother may also take part of the prenatal leave after the birth. For a third child, leave is extended to 26 weeks (eight pre-natal and 18 post-natal). Mothers expecting twins or triplets (or more) are entitled to 12 weeks' and 24 weeks' pre-natal leave respectively, and 22 weeks of post-natal benefits. In the case of premature births (more than six weeks before the expected date of delivery), the maternity leave period is increased by the number of days intervening between the date of delivery and the date six weeks before the expected date of birth.


100%, but not more than €84.90 per day, since 1 January 2017

Who pays?

The Assurance maladie (National Health Insurance) unless a sectoral collective agreement obliges the employer to pay

Legal basis

Social Security Code, sectoral collective agreements (if applicable)

Parental leave

Maximum duration

The basic duration of parental leave for one child is one year, which is renewable twice, i.e. three years in total. The period may not exceed the third birthday of the child. For more than one child, the period may be extended up to the time when the child goes to school. For three or more children born or adopted at the same time, the maximum period is six years and may not exceed the sixth birthday of the children. Both mothers and fathers may take parental leave.


Employees do not receive a salary during parental leave, but may use time saved on their working time account.

Who pays?

Not applicable.

Legal basis

Labour Code.

Paternity leave

Maximum duration

For a single child, fathers may take 11 consecutive days after childbirth including Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. For more than one child, the leave consists of a maximum of 18 days. In addition, the French Labour Code grants 3 days of leave.


100%, but not more than €84.90 per day if the father has contributed a sum above a certain threshold to social security for at least 10 months.

Who pays?

Assurance maladie

Legal basis

Labour Code, Social Security Code

Sick leave

The employment contract of an employee who is on leave due to illness is considered suspended. Absence due to illness cannot form the basis of a termination. However, in cases of extended or repeated leave, the employer may (under certain conditions) be entitled to terminate the employment contract on the grounds that the employee’s absence hinders the proper functioning of the company and the company is consequently required to permanently replace the employee. The employee will continue to receive their salary during their absence if they fulfil certain conditions set by the Labour Code or by the applicable collective bargaining agreement, if more favourable. During sickness, salaries are paid by the National Health Insurance.

Retirement age

The retirement age is 62 for employees born in or after 1955 and between 60 and 62 for people born before. Early retirement is possible. Employees may take retirement with full pensions at the age of 58 or 60 if they have a long career. People born in 1960 and who contributed to social security for 41.75 years (167 quarters) can retire at 60 and at the age of 58 if they have contributed for 43.75 years (175 quarters). Slightly different thresholds apply for people born before or after 1960 (see table). A recognised disability also gives a right to early retirement. There is no difference in legal retirement age for men and women.



Pay: For workers, the reward for work and main source of income; for employers, a cost of production and focus of bargaining and legislation. This section looks into minimum wage setting in France and guides the reader to further material on collective wage bargaining.

Minimum wages

The legal minimum wage (SMIC) is adjusted annually on 1 January of each year by Government. It is indexed to inflation (without considering tobacco) for households that belong to the lowest disposable income quintile. Half of the growth in purchasing power of the average hourly wage for workers and employees is added to the result. If inflation exceeds 2% during the year, the SMIC is automatically adjusted. In addition, the Government may decide, at any time, to increase the minimum wage above the calculated rate. It is forbidden to pay workers below the legal minimum wage even though sector-level collective agreements maintain minimum agreed wages lower than the legal minimum wage. The SMIC covers all employees with the exception of young workers in apprenticeship or state subsidised employment contract who receive a reduced minimum wage.

For more information regarding the level and development of minimum wages, please see Eurofound’s topical update on statutory minimum wage in the EU 2017 or visit Eurostat.

Collectively agreed pay outcomes

For more detailed information on the most recent outcomes in terms of collectively agreed pay, please consult Eurofound’s collectively wage bargaining portal.

Working time

Working time

Working time: ‘Any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activities or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice’ (Directive 2003/88/EC). This section briefly summarises regulation and issues regarding working time, overtime, part-time work as well as working time flexibility in France.

Working time regulation

French statutory working time is 35 hours per week. The ‘Aubry laws’ of 1998 and 2000 reduced the statutory working week from 39 to 35 hours from 2000 for all companies employing more than 20 people, and from 2002 for smaller companies. All French companies have negotiated working time reductions between 2000 and 2004. The law permits a variety of flexible arrangements whereby companies may derogate (within limits) from certain provisions of the working time legislation, provided such arrangements are negotiated and organised through collective bargaining. This applies, for example, to the annual calculation of overtime if the agreement provides for an annual adjustment of working hours, or in the calculation of executives’ working time by days worked in the course of the year (Boulin & Cette, 2008).

In the framework of the labour law reform of 2016, the decrees No. 2016-1553 and 2016-1551 of 18 November 2016 implement Article 8 of the law, which amends the legislation on working time in three ways:

  • It sets out the relevant public policy provisions relevant to the employment relationship.
  • It specifies the scope of collective bargaining in a branch or enterprise.
  • It sets out the provisions that apply in the absence of a collective agreement.

Since 1 January 2017, the principle is to give primacy to the company-level agreement over the branch agreement for most provisions concerning working time. There is also a new obligation for employers to negotiate on adequate rest times and annual leave, and to pursue agreements that respect the private and family life of employees. In the absence of an agreement, the employer must clearly set out the procedures under which an employee can exercise the ‘right to switch off’ from all work-related communication (droit à la déconnexion).

For more detailed information on working time (including annual leave, statutory and collectively agreed working time), please consult Eurofound’s report on Working time developments in the 21st century: Work duration and its regulation.

Overtime regulation

Every hour worked above the legally fixed 35 hours counts as overtime. Since 1 January 2017, company-level agreement may fix the additional payment for overtime hours. Then the additional payment can’t be lower than 10%, but it can be lower than the rate stipulated by the applicable sectoral collective agreement. If there is no company-level or sectoral agreement applicable, then the employer must compensate overtimes with an extra 25% for the first eight overtime hours per week and 50% for every additional hour. Alternatively, a sectoral or company agreement may substitute overtime payment by additional time off. Maximum overtime is fixed by law at 220 hours per year, but sectoral or company agreements may deteriorate from the provisions within certain limits. Since 1 January 2017, company-level agreements may introduce flexibilities about the maximum length of the working time. However, in any case, daily working time must not exceed 12 hours per day (or night), 46 hours over a period of 12 consecutive weeks, and 48 hours per week.

Part-time work

Part-time work is defined as working time below 35 hours per week, the applicable working time determined by a collective agreement or the habitual working time of the company. The Labour code provides for a minimum working time limit of 24 hours per week, that can be reduced by sectoral-level agreement with compensations (Labour code, L. 3123-19). The proportion of employees working part-time has been increasing slowly but steadily over the past 30 years. In 2016, Eurostat figures show that 18.1% of the French workforce worked part-time. National data suggest that the increase in part-time work is stronger among men than women, although the latter are still significantly more likely to work reduced hours.

Persons employed part-time in France (metropolitan) and EU28 (% of total employment)

According a study of the Ministry of Labour (DARES), in 2011 82% of part-time employees in France were women and 31% of female employees worked part time. The rate is particularly high for women with children, as 45% of employees with three or more children worked part time. The rate reaches 56% when the younger child is between 3 and 5 years old.








Total - EU28







Total – FR







Women - EU28







Women – FR







Men - EU28







Men – FR







Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsi_pt_a] – Persons employed part-time (20 to 64 years of age) – total and by sex.

Night work

According to the Labour code, "night time" means any work period of 9 consecutively hours worked between 21:00 and 7.00. This work period must the period between 24:00 and 5:00 (Labour code, L 3122-2). The use of night work is exceptional (Labour code, L. 3122-1).

Shift work

There is no definition of “shift work” (travail posté) in the Labour code. The definition of the EU directive is therefore applicable. "shift work" means any method of organising work in shifts whereby workers succeed each other at the same work stations according to a certain pattern, including a rotating pattern, and which may be continuous or discontinuous, entailing the need for workers to work at different times over a given period of days or weeks

Weekend work

There is no legal definition of the week-end work. However, the Labour code stipulates that the weekly rest day has to be on Sunday, even if derogations are possible. According to a study of Dares, about 25% of the workforce work at least two Saturdays per month in 2014, and 12% at least two Sundays per months in 2014.

Rest and breaks

Every employee must have a daily rest period between two working days. The legal period of rest is at least 11 consecutive hours (Labour Code, article L3131-1). However, derogations from this period may be set by agreement or agreement (Labour code, L3131-2). However, a collective agreement can’t have the effect of reducing the daily rest period to less than nine hours (Labour code, article D3131-4). Employees are not allowed to work for more than six days consecutively (Labour code, article 3132-1) and the minimum weekly rest is 35 hours (Labour code, article 3132-2). However, derogations are possible.

Working time flexibility

Flexible working time arrangements usually have to be approved by the works council or, if not present, the staff delegate and the labour inspectorate must be informed. If the company has neither a works council nor a staff delegate, the labour inspectorate has to approve the flexible working time arrangement. The labour law reform of 2016 has extended the negotiation of flexibility through company-level agreement.

Do you have fixed start and finishing time in your work?

In the figure, we see a comparison between France and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Do you have fixed starting and finishing times in your work?'. For the 'No' answer, France's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, France's score is lower than the European Union score. Data is based on question 39d from the sixth European Working Conditions Survey (2015).The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015

More detailed figures are available from Eurofound’s European Working conditions survey.

Health and well-being

Health and well-being

Maintaining health and well-being should be a high priority for workers and employers alike. Health is an asset closely associated with a person’s quality of life and longevity, as well as their ability to work. A healthy economy depends on a healthy workforce: organisations can experience loss of productivity through the ill-health of their workers. This section looks into psychosocial risks and health and safety in France.

Health and safety at work

There has been a significant drop in work-related accidents between 2008 and 2009, which might be an effect of the crisis that showed its strongest impact on industry employment, which is more likely to produce accidents.

Accidents at work, with four days’ absence or more – working days lost









All accidents








Percentage change on previous year








Per 1,000 employees








Source: Eurostat, [hsw_mi01] and [lfsa_eegaed].

Psychosocial risks

Employers are legally obliged (Labour code, Article L. 4121-1) to evaluate psychosocial risks and to take the necessary measures to ensure the protection and security of the employees’ mental and physical health. For this purpose, employers must provide measures to tackle the sources of the risks and to adapt working conditions accordingly. The latter might include the conception of workplaces, adaptation of methods of work and production in order to, for instance, avoid monotonous work and work at a predetermined work-rate, technical support, and other measures. Moreover, employers are required to plan risk prevention holistically, taking into account technical aspects, work organisation, employment and social relations, in particular with regards to moral and sexual harassment.

In addition, there are two national cross-sectoral agreements that have dealt with psychosocial risks, namely the 2008 agreement on stress at work and the 2010 agreement on harassment and violence at work.

Work intensity: Do you have enough time to get the job done?

In the figure, we see a comparison between France and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Do you have enough time to get the job done?'. For the 'Always or most of the time' answer, France's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Rarely or never' answer, France's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Sometimes' answer, France's score is lower than the European Union score. Data is based on question 61g from the sixth European Working Conditions Survey (2015).The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

More detailed figures are available from Eurofound’s European Working conditions survey.

Skills, learning and employability

Skills, learning and employability

Skills are the passport to employment; the better skilled an individual, the more employable they are. Good skills also tend to secure better-quality jobs and better earnings. This section briefly summarises the French system for ensuring skills and employability and looks into the extent of training

National system for ensuring skills and employability

All employers must participate in the funding of ensuring skills and employability through the provision of training to their employees. Depending on the size of the company, employers must, unless specified differently by a sectoral collective agreement, pay between 0.55 and 1.60% of the payroll to a Certified Joint Collecting Body (OPCA). OPCAs are typically set up by sector; there are currently 21 sectoral OPCAs in place. OPCAs are bipartite organisations jointly governed by trade unions and employers’ associations.

The Certified Joint Collecting Body provides guidance, and plans, implements and funds training. Many companies delegate their training activities to the local sectoral OPCA. The institution typically has a list of approved training providers that offer courses on a large range of issues.


In line with the recent reform of vocational training, from 1 January 2015 all employees will have an individual training account valid from when they first join the labour market to when they retire. An employee who changes jobs or alternates between work and unemployment will retain his or her right to training. This arrangement will replace the Individual Right to Training, which was created in 2003 and was rarely used.

The individual training account will be provided as soon as its holder becomes an employee. A maximum of 150 hours can be accumulated over nine years. Every employee receives 20 hours per year worked (for a full-time post) during the first six years of employment, and 10 hours a year for the three subsequent years. The account will be accessible via an online service. Furthermore, the reform changes how employers’ contributions are calculated. Previously this was 1.6% of payroll costs in companies with 20 or more employees, and 1.05% for those with between 10 and 19 employees. This is replaced by a single, compulsory contribution of 1% of payroll costs for all businesses with more than 10 employees. The only lower rate is 0.55 % for those companies with fewer than 10 employees.

Since 1 January 2017, the so-called individual occupational account (compte personnel d’activité, CPA) merged the training rights recorded into three previous schemes: the individual training accounts created in 2015, the individual accounts for employees performing arduous task launched in 2016 and the citizen engagement account. Workers over 16 years old are invited to create their personal accounts on a specific website to cumulate rights to finance professional training.

Training: Have you had any on the job training in the past year?

In the figure, we see a comparison between France and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Have you had on-the-job training in the last 12 months?'. For the 'No' answer, France's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, France's score is lower than the European Union score. Data is based on question 65c from the sixth European Working Conditions Survey (2015).The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

More detailed figures are available from Eurofound’s European Working conditions survey.

Work organisation

Work organisation

Work organisation underpins economic and business development and has important consequences for productivity, innovation and working conditions. Eurofound research finds that some types of work organisation are associated with a better quality of work and employment. Therefore, developing or introducing different forms of work organisation are of particular interest because of the expected effects on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of companies, as well as on workers’ working conditions. Ongoing research by Eurofound, based on EurWORK, the European Working Conditions Survey and the European Company Survey, monitors developments in work organisation.

For France, the European Company Survey 2013 shows that between 2010 and 2013 30% of establishments with 10 or more employees reported changes in the use of technology, 30% introduced changes in ways to coordinate and allocate the work to workers and 18% saw changes in their working time arrangements.

Work organisation: Are you able to choose or change your methods of work?

In the figure, we see a comparison between France and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Are you able to choose or change your methods of work?'. For the 'No' answer, France's score is lower than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, France's score is higher than the European Union score. Data is based on question 54b from the sixth European Working Conditions Survey (2015). The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

More detailed figures are available from Eurofound’s European Working conditions survey.

Equality and non-discrimination at work

Equality and non-discrimination at work

The general prohibition of discrimination at work is contained in the preamble to the 1946 Constitution, which states ‘no person may be prejudiced, in their work or employment, on the grounds of their origins, opinions or beliefs’. The current legislation (Labour Code, art. L1131-1) stipulates that no-one may be discriminated against on the basis of origin; sex; morality; sexual orientation; age (unless the differential treatment is justified by a legitimate objective, such as when it is a specific requirement of the job); family status; genetic characteristics; actual or supposed adherence or non-observance of any ethnic origin, nationality or race; political opinions; trade union membership or similar activity; religious beliefs; physical appearance; surname; health or disability.

This applies to access to a recruitment process, internship or training course. No employee may be sanctioned, dismissed or subjected to discriminatory measures. All types of discrimination are prohibited, whether direct or indirect, and particularly in matters of pay, training, appointment, qualification, rank, promotion, variation or renewal of contract. No employee may be sanctioned, dismissed or subjected to any discriminatory measure on the grounds that he or she is lawfully exercising his or her right to strike.

Equal pay and gender pay gap

Equality between men and women has become a subject of mandatory bargaining for companies with at least 50 employees, an obligation now accompanied by a financial penalty of up to 1% of the total payroll amount if not complied with. Equal pay for men and women is found to be the most often addressed issue in the agreement’s provisions on equality (Garner & Recoules 2014). These are intended both to guarantee that women’s wages are comparable to those of men and also to bridge the gaps. Important agreements were reached in large companies.

The gender pay gap in France was slightly below the EU28 average in 2012 (15.4% and 16.5%, respectively). According to INSEE the gap has constantly decreased since 2008, from 20.9% to 18.6% in 2014, less than the rates observed in 2005 and 2006 (18.9%).

Quota regulations

In 2010, the Government passed legislation to commit companies traded on the stock exchange to increase the share of women on their supervisory boards to 40% by 2016.

In 2005, French Government introduced rules on the compulsory employment of disabled workers, the Obligation d’emploi de travailleurs handicapés (OETH). Companies with at least 20 staff must have 6% of full-time equivalent workers on their payroll registered as disabled.



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