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French employment and labour laws: a comprehensive guide

France is fast becoming a hotspot for the tech industry.

In 2021 President Macron committed €30 billion to boosting the tech industry in France, as part of the France 2030 plan. This included an aim to see 100 French tech unicorns by 2030 – and given there are already around 25, and 18 ‘soonicorns’ in the works, this may well be an achievable aim.

This environment, plus other factors like the French tech visa which makes it easy for start ups in France to hire non-EU employees, means that if you’re thinking of opening a French office or hiring employees based in France, it could be a good bet.

But what do you need to know about employment and labour laws in France?

That’s exactly what this guide covers.

📖 Table of contents

Section 1: Employment and labour laws in France

  • What is the minimum wage in France?
  • What are standard working hours in France?
  • What social security contributions are made in France? (employer and employee)
  • What is income tax in France?

Section 2: Mandatory and optional employee benefits in France

  • What annual leave are French employees entitled to?
  • What public holidays are there in France?
  • What sick leave are French employees entitled to?
  • What parental leave are French employees entitled to? (maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave, adoption leave)
  • Is private health insurance mandatory for employers in France?
  • What is the French commuting allowance?
  • What other employee benefits are common in France? Featuring meal vouchers, flexible working, 13 month salaries, and more

Section 3: Compensation trends in France

  • What is the average salary in France?
  • Is it typical for companies in France to offer equity compensation?
  • What is the gender pay gap in France?

Section 4: Pay transparency in France

  • What is pay transparency legislation in France?
  • When will France implement the EU Pay Transparency?

[Article last updated: February 2024]

Section 1: Employment and labour laws in France

What is the minimum wage in France?

The minimum wage in France is €11.52 per hour. This was last updated in May 2023, with an increase of 2.22%. This hourly minimum wage represents a monthly wage of €1,747.20 and an annual wage of €20,966.40.

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What are standard working hours in France?

Under French labour law, the standard working week in France is 35 hours and a working day must not be more than 10 hours – this was passed as law in 2000.

Employees can work overtime above the standard 35 hour working week. But, it’s common for employment contracts to include an overtime policy for these instances – the two most common approaches being to offer one of:

  • Réduction du temps de travail (reduction of working time), commonly known as RTT. Employees receive additional paid time off in exchange for overtime worked.
  • Overtime pay rate above salary. Overtime pay is offered at 125% of regular salary for the first 8 hours, and 150% after that. Overtime pay is typically at least 110% of salary.

What social security contributions are made by French employers and employees?

The French social security system is a robust one, so there are pretty significant payroll contributions for both employee and employer.

Overall social security contributions are approximately:

  • For employers – 45% of the employee’s salary
  • For employees – 20-23% of the employee’s salary

These contributions break down as follows (source: Le Cleiss):

Employer social security contributions:

  • Old-age insurance:* 8.55% of earnings up to the monthly social security ceiling of €3,666; 1.9% of earnings beyond the ceiling
  • Supplementary pension*: 4.72-12.95% of earnings
  • Health, maternity, disability, death insurance: 7% of earnings for salaries up to 2.5x minimum wage; 13% of earnings for salaries above
  • Family benefits: 3.45% of earnings for salaries up to 3.5x minimum wage; 5.25% of earnings for salaries above
  • Autonomy solidarity (a fund for the autonomy of elderly or disabled people): 0.3% of earnings
  • Accidents at work: varies depending on workplace risk
  • Unemployment insurance: 4.05% of earnings, up to a ceiling of €14,664 (4x monthly social security ceiling)
  • Wage guarantee insurance (AGS): 0.15% of earnings

Employee social security contributions:

  • Old-age insurance:* 6.9% of earnings up to the social security ceiling of €3,666; 0.4% of earnings beyond the ceiling
  • Supplementary pension*: 3.15-8.64% of earnings
  • Social security surcharge (contribution sociale généralisée or CSG): 9.2% of earnings
  • Social security debt reimbursement contribution (contribution pour le remboursement de la dette sociale/CRDS): 0.5% of earnings

🤔 How do retirement contributions work in France?

In France the government provides a ‘basic’ state pension, given after the age of retirement (62-64) which varies depending on an individual’s average salary throughout their career. Employers and employees both contribute to this via the payroll (see above) as old-age insurance.

Through the social security scheme there is also a mandatory supplementary pension scheme to top up the basic pension for all private-sector employees.

This is done through payroll contributions by employer (60%) and employee (40%), but separate to social security – these are managed by industry bodies, most commonly AGIRC (for executives) and ARRCO (for non-executives).

There are two salary brackets for the supplementary contributions:

  • Bracket 1: monthly income €0-€3,666. Employee contributes 3.15% of income, employer contributes 4.72% of income.
  • Bracket 2: monthly income €3,666 and €29,328. Employee contributes 8.64% of income, employer contributes 12.95% of income.

Source: Le Cleiss

What is income tax in France?

French employees pay income tax on their earnings. Income tax rates are progressive tax from 0% to 45% based on salary, with the brackets as follows:

Table showing the income tax rate in France for different salary brackets.

There is also an additional surtax for those on the highest salaries:

  • 3% of income that exceeds €250,000 for a single person or €250,000 for a married couple
  • 4% of income that exceeds €500,000 for a single person or €1 million for a married couple.

Section 2: Mandatory and optional employee benefits in France

What annual leave are French employees entitled to?

Under French labour law all full-time employees (working a 35 hour week) are entitled to a minimum of five weeks (25 working days) of paid annual leave per year.

Holidays are accrued from an employee’s starting date at a rate of 2.5 days per calendar month worked.

🤔 Is it common for French employers to give more than the statutory minimum of annual leave?

Ravio’s compensation benchmarking platform includes insights on the benefits that employees are given as part of their total compensation package, including annual leave.

In France most employers only offer the required amount of holiday – but offering unlimited holiday is becoming more common too:

  • 84% offer the statutory minimum of 25 days
  • 5% offer unlimited holidays
  • 8% offer 26-30 days
  • 3% offer more than 30 days.

Access more insights in Ravio ➡️

What public holidays are there in France?

There are 11 public holidays per year in France.

Only Labour Day on 1st May is a statutory paid holiday on which employers must grant leave – but most employers give all 11 public holidays as paid time off.

Table showing the public holidays in France.

What sick leave are French employees entitled to?

Under French labour law, all employees who have worked at least 150 hours during the prior three calendar months are entitled to unlimited paid sick leave.

The first three days of sick leave are seen as a ‘qualifying period’ and the employer isn’t obliged to pay wages. After day three the sick leave is paid for by social security at 50% of the employee’s salary. After day eight, the employer must top that up as follows:

  • 90% of salary for 30 days (increased by ten days for every five years of service)
  • 66% of salary for the following 30 days (increased by ten days for every five years of service) if there has been at least one year of service

It’s common for employers to top up to full salary.

Maternity leave in France

Under French labour law, all working mothers in France who have been employed for at least 150 hours during the prior three calendar months are entitled to 16 weeks of fully paid maternity leave (6 weeks pre-birth, 10 weeks after) as standard.

Maternity leave can be granted above 16 weeks, in the following circumstances:

  • If there are complications, an additional 2-4 weeks of fully paid leave are given
  • For the third birth and above, 26 weeks of fully paid leave are given (8 weeks pre-birth, 18 after)
  • For twins, 34 weeks of fully paid leave are given (12 weeks pre-birth, 22 weeks after)
  • For triplets or more, 46 weeks of fully paid leave are given (24 weeks pre-birth, 22 weeks after).

Paternity leave in France

Similarly, all working fathers in France who have been employed for at least 150 hours during the prior three calendar months are entitled to 25 days of fully paid paternity leave as standard.

Four days must be taken after the child’s birth, and the remaining days can be divided into two periods before the child reaches six months. For multiple births, 32 days of fully paid leave are given.

Adoption leave in France

All adoptive parents in France who have been employed for at least 150 hours during the prior three calendar months are entitled to 16 weeks of fully paid leave as standard.

If more than one child is adopted, 22 weeks of paid leave are given. For people who already have two or more dependent children, 18 weeks of paid leave are given. If the leave is shared between parents, the duration is extended by 25 days (for a single adoption) or 32 days (for a multiple adoption).

Parental leave in France

In all scenarios both parents in France are entitled to up to one year of parental leave or part-time working arrangements after the maternity/paternity leave and before the child reaches the age of three – as long as they have been with their company for at least one year.

The year of leave can be taken by one parent or divided, and can be taken simultaneously or consecutively. During the parental leave the employer does not pay salary. However, benefit payments can be received from the state.

Is private health insurance mandatory for employers in France?

Health benefits are part of social security in France. However, not all costs are covered by the state and so private health insurance is also needed to cover the rest – known as mutuelle ou complémentaire santé.

Under French labour law employers must pay at least 50% of the cost of the private health insurance, but it’s common for employers to cover the whole cost as part of their benefit package.

What is the French commuting allowance?

Under French labour law, employers must cover at least 50% of the employee’s cost for commuting to the place of work via public transport, including bike rental.

On top of that, there are also optional schemes in place:

  • Transportation bonus (prime de transport): grants employers a tax-free amount of €200 per year per employee to pay to employees who use their car to travel to work if the employee’s place of residence or work or their working hours mean that public transport is not an option.
  • Sustainable mobility package (forfait mobilité durable): grants employers a tax-free amount of €800 per year per employee to pay to employees who opt for sustainable transportation (e.g. bike, scooter, carpooling – this can be coupled with the public transport costs too).

What other employee benefits are common in France?

Alongside these, other common employee benefits in France include meal vouchers and a 13th month salary:

  • Meal vouchers. It’s common for employers in France to offer some variety of payment for meals. Some places of employment have a subsidised canteen, and it’s also common for employees to be given a ‘meal voucher’ which is a pre-paid card that employees can use to pay for meals during their time at work – this is a scheme of the French government to support French hospitality businesses. Historically spend has been limited to €19 per day, but following the Covid-19 lockdowns this was increased to €38 to further support the hospitality industry.
  • 13th month salary. An additional month’s salary given to employees – isn’t mandatory in France, but it is commonly cited as a customary benefit.

🤔 Is it actually common for employers in France to offer a 13 month salary in addition to base salary?

It’s often cited that the 13th month salary is a customary benefit in France.

The 13th month salary is a type of bonus or variable pay structure wherein employees receive an additional salary instalment annually: a 13th paycheck.

In some countries, such as Belgium, it is mandatory to pay a 13th month salary. In Greece it’s required to pay both a 13th and 14th month salary at the major annual public holiday periods – the 13th month’s salary is paid at the end of the year, and the 14th month divided between Easter and the summer break.

In others, the 13th month salary isn’t mandatory but is a market norm benefit which is common for employers to offer. This is commonly seen as the case in France, where the 13th month salary is not mandatory, but is typically offered.

However, Ravio’s employee benefits data shows that, in fact, 97% of employers in France do not offer a 13th month salary.

So, perhaps the 13th month salary is now becoming less of a customary benefit in France today.

Access more insights in Ravio ➡️

  • Wellness benefits. It’s common today for employers all over the world to offer wellness benefits to employees as part of their overall compensation package, and France is no exception. Ravio’s data shows that fitness and mental health are particularly important in France: 23% of employers offer a fitness allowance or gym membership, whilst 20% of employers offer a mental health service or subscription.
  • Flexible working arrangements in France. Flexibility is also hugely important in today’s world of work, and this is an area of benefits that France is particularly strong in offering.

On flexible working, Ravio’s data shows that 90% of employers in France offer a hybrid model of working wherein working time is split between onsite and remote working – this compares to 77% of UK employers.

Chart showing the percentage of companies in the UK and France that offer remote or hybrid options. Some employees are onsite only: 9% of French companies, 16% of UK companies. Some employees are fully remote: 36% of French companies, 37% of UK companies. Some employees are hybrid: 77% of French companies, 90% of UK companies.

Ravio dataset, February 2024

However, French employers are actually less likely to localise salaries for remote workers – 30% of employers do localise salary for remote workers based on their location in France, compared to 41% in the UK.

🤔 What benefits are most wanted by job seekers in France?

We spoke to French tech recruitment experts at Skeelz to find out what candidates in France are currently looking for in a benefits package from a potential employer, and two key themes emerged:

Firstly, flexible working options for work-life balance.

Employees are putting more and more value on the flexibility of work. They’re highlighting the importance of enjoyable work, flexible hours, and career advancement opportunities above salary alone.

In particular, Skeelz have found that:

  • 71% of employees are ideally looking for a role with a 4-day workweek
  • 64% want flexible hours and remote working options.

Secondly, support with work-related costs.

As we’ve seen, there are many mandatory employer contributions under French labour law. But, today’s employees look for companies that go above and beyond the statutory minimum to support employees with work-related costs.

Specifically, candidates commonly ask Skeelz whether employers offer financial support for the following items:

  • Remote working - an allowance above the legal requirement (€2.88 per day, up to a maximum annual limit of €253.44) to support with the increased costs of bills and setting up a home office is seen as a huge bonus
  • Co-working spaces close to home for remote workers
  • Commuting costs – especially ensuring employees are able to benefit from the Sustainable Mobility Allowance
  • Personal services e.g. mental health services, or childcare for employees who are parents, or other personal services
  • Meals during work hours i.e. meal vouchers
  • Health insurance above the legal requirement.

So, if you’re updating your benefits any time soon, these are well worth considering adding to the package.

For more insights and advice from French employee benefits experts Alexandra Pharisien, Talent Manager at Skeelz and Boris Jottreau, CEO of May, go to our article: Employee benefits in France: what makes a competitive benefits package?

Section 3: Compensation trends in France

So, we’ve looked at benefits and payroll contributions.

What about salary?

What is the average salary in France?

According to figures from the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) the average salary in France in 2021 was €29,572 per year – €2,464 per month.

However, of course, there’s significant variance in this typical salary. Employees at different levels of seniority are paid differently, as are (sadly) men and women – and INSEE has reports separating these out too to show how the average salary differs with these factors.

We can also see this through Ravio’s data – the largest and most comprehensive real-time talent dataset in Europe. Let’s take a look at two example roles to give a more accurate indicator of average salaries in France.

Comparing a P3 (established professional / IC as per the Ravio level framework) in software engineering:

Table showing the base salary at the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile for a P3 software engineer in France and the UK (shown in euros and pounds)

Base salary for a software engineer (P3) in France and the UK. Ravio dataset, February 2024.

And a P3 account executive in sales:

Table showing the base salary at the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile for a P3 account executive in France and the UK (shown in euros and pounds)

Base salary for an account executive in sales (P3) in France and the UK. Ravio dataset, February 2024.

We can see that:

  • Engineering salaries tend to be slightly higher than commercial salaries (though it’s also common for sales roles to have variable compensation on top of base salary)
  • Salaries in France tend to be slightly lower than salaries in the UK – and the difference in pay between these locations also increases as the level of seniority of the role increases (especially true in management roles).

📈 Interested in what a competitive salary looks like in France for other roles?

In the Ravio Compensation Trends Report 2024 we share typical salaries for a P3 (established, professional) and M3 (senior manager) level in software engineering, product management, and direct sales. The Report also includes a comparison to more countries in Europe (UK, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, France, Sweden), so you can see how French salaries stack up.

If you’re looking for a role or level not included in this list, access the most comprehensive salary benchmarking dataset in Europe with Ravio.

Is it typical for companies in France to offer equity compensation?

Ravio's data shows that 85% of French companies offer equity compensation to employees. Notably, this is slightly more than in the UK where 80% of employers offer equity compensation.

Chart showing 80% of UK companies and 85% of French companies in Ravio's dataset offer equity as compensation.

Ravio data, February 2024

Of those companies that offer equity compensation, the majority (67% of companies) offer equity to all employees. 18% offer equity only to select roles, of which 6% only offer equity to founders and/or C-suite leadership team members.

Equity compensation in france. 15% of companies do not offer equity compensation; 67% offer equity compensation to all employees; 12% of companies offer equity compensation to some employees; 6% of companies offer equity only to C-level leaders.

Ravio data, February 2024

Looking for more equity benchmarking insights?

What is France’s gender pay gap?

The gender diversity of teams and pay equity across genders is becoming more and more important for companies, especially with the rollout of the EU Pay Transparency Directive looming.

So how does the gender pay gap in France compare to elsewhere?

Ravio’s data shows that France has a gender pay gap of 18% – which is actually much lower than other countries in Europe e.g. UK at 31%.

Chart showing the gender pay gap in countries across Europe. UK 29%, Germany 25%, Netherlands 23%, Sweden 19%, France 18%.

Ravio data, February 2024

Whilst this is a positive sign for gender equality in France, it’s clear that pay remains far from equal across genders still – there’s more work to be done.

Want to know how your company’s gender pay gap compares to this?

Section 4: Pay transparency in France

What is pay transparency legislation in France?

In France pay transparency legislation has already been implemented, in the form of gender equality obligations.

Employers with more than 50 employees are legally required to measure and publish five key indicators relating to the gender pay gap:

  • The pay gap percentage between women and men in the same age group and job category
  • The gap in the rate of salary increases between women and men
  • The gap in the rate of promotion between women and men
  • Percentage of women who received a salary increase in the year following return from maternity leave
  • Number of women among the 10 highest-paid employees.

Each of these indicators is scored, and there is a minimum required overall score of 75 points (out of 100) – known as the Gender Equality Index or the ‘Index de l’égalité professionnelle femmes-hommes’.

The score must be published by 1 March each year on the company’s website (or if there is no website, communicated directly to employees in another way).

Employers who score below 75 points must conduct a comprehensive pay equity analysis annually to identify gender pay gaps and develop corrective measures.

When will France implement the EU Pay Transparency Directive?

The EU Pay Transparency Directive came into force on 6 June 2023 and is now being rolled out across all EU member states – including France.

The Directive is top level guidance, and countries now have until 7 June 2026 to implement the legislation within their own national laws – though it’s possible some will do this more quickly than that official date.

The opening page of the EU Pay Transparency Directive

Whilst we don’t know exactly how France will, therefore, interpret and implement the EU Pay Transparency Directive, in general there will be much stricter rules on pay transparency than currently exists, across four main areas of ruling:

  1. Stricter gender pay gap reporting. Companies with over 100 employees will be required to submit reports on their gender pay gap, and any company with a gender pay gap of over 5% will be required to conduct a joint pay assessment in cooperation with employee representatives to further analyse the gender pay gap and take action to reduce it.
  2. Increased access to pay information for employees. Employees will be entitled to request information on pay levels and the criteria for career and pay progression.
  3. The burden of proof shifts to the employer. In any case regarding pay discrimination, the employer will need to prove that pay discrimination has not taken place – whereas historically the employee would have to prove that pay discrimination has taken place.
  4. Increased access to pay information for job applicants. Employers will be required to include the salary range for all job positions to candidates before interviews. Employers will be banned from asking candidates about their salary history.

We’ll update this page once France announces exactly how and when the new rulings will be in place.

For now it’s worth getting to know the rulings in preparation, so head to our EU Pay Transparency Directive guide to get started.