If you run a foreign company without establishment in France but you do employ personnel on the French territory, affiliated to the French social security system, you must then respect certain conditions imposed by the French law. These generally fall within the framework of an applicable collective agreement. We synthesized for you the most important information about collective agreements and how to comply with them.
What is a collective agreement?
Collective agreements, also called national collective agreements (Conventions Collectives Nationales or CCN in French), define all employment and working conditions, as well as social guarantees for the employees in France. These agreements are established between employee unions and groups of employers – usually professional organizations of employers from a certain field.
A collective agreement adjusts the general provisions of the French Labor Code to the specific situations of a sector of activity and establishes obligations that the Labor Code does not impose (for example, the application of a pension plan) or specific benefits for employees, like the duration of the trial periods, the grid of minimum wages, bonuses, paid holidays, allowances or exceptional leaves.
Since collective agreements adapt to the particularities of each activity field, profession or even geographic area, their stipulations can be very different from one case to another. It is important for both employee and employer (or their representatives) to know which collective agreement is applicable to their company and to be able to read it and interpret it correctly.
How to find and read the collective agreement applicable to your company?
There are more than 300 collective agreements in France. You can easily find the one applicable to your company online (www.legifrance.gouv.fr), by choosing it from a drop-down list of collective agreements, by using a keyword (like the company’s main activity), the IDCC code, which is a unique code assigned by the Ministry of Labor to each collective agreement, or by the brochure number of 4 digits, assigned when the collective agreement is published in the national Official Journal.
A collective agreement is also identifiable by means of the company’s NAF or APE code. This code characterizes the company’s main activity by reference to the French nomenclature of activities. Assigned by INSEE (the French institute for statistics) to any company and to each of its subsidiaries when it registers in the SIREN directory, it consists of four numbers and a letter.
Moreover, the pay slip of an employee must also mention the collective agreement applicable to their company. The employer is also required to comply with certain obligations concerning the communication/informing process for employees:
- Upon hiring, employees must receive by any means a notice informing them of the collective agreement(s) applicable in the company/subsidiary and where/how it can be consulted;
- An up-to-date copy of these texts must be kept at their disposal at the workplace (paper copy or on the intranet of the company if it has one).
The collective agreement is made up of a main text, applicable to all employees and of several additional texts (appendices, amendments etc.), applicable in particular to certain categories of employees. The appendices may also be intended to deal with certain points that are not covered by the main text.
Collective agreement: mandatory or not?
A collective agreement is mandatory in 2 situations:
- If the activity of your company falls under a category covered by a collective agreement, meaning that the collective agreement has been extended to your activity by order of the Ministry of Labor, published in the Official Journal;
- If your company adheres to the employers’ organization that signed the collective agreement, in the absence of a national extension decree.
If none of these apply to your company, then you have no obligation to respect the stipulations of a collective agreement. In this case, you must only respect the provisions of the French Labor Code. Nevertheless, you still need to mention the collective agreement’s name on the employees’ pay slips.
Should you think you are in this situation, it is advisable to check also with the labor inspectorate (l’inspection du travail).
Collective agreement and labor contract
The provisions of the collective agreement are not incorporated into the employment contracts. Employees have the liberty to individually negotiate with their employer contractual clauses which are more favorable than what the collective agreement provides.
For example, contractual wages cannot be modified by what a collective agreement imposes, even if it’s a new version of the text or a new collective agreement entered into force. In order to modify it, the employer must obtain the employee’s express agreement. Only purely conventional compensation can be modified by a new collective agreement.
Fred Payroll and Rue de la Paye’s experts are joining forces to guarantee you a smooth payroll management process and pay slips that are compliant with the applicable regulations and collective agreements at any time.
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If you want to read more about collective agreements in French, or any other related subject, please check out our French payroll e-magazine.