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Working in France

Entrepreneur, employee or still looking for work …
Discover some key advice to work in France

Work as an employee or being self-employed?

There are two ways to work in France, both of which have their own advantages and disadvantages. You can:

Work as an employee

With a permanent or fixed-term contract, work as an employee guarantees you a regular salary. In either case, social charges payable to collecting bodies are paid in part by your employer. The remaining part is automatically deducted from your salary.

Your salary at the time of hiring is generally expressed gross and per annum. To calculate the net salary, you should deduct about 25% for an executive, which corresponds to the share of social charges paid by the employee. The State introduced "pay as you earn" income tax at source on 1st January 2019, which means that the tax on your salary and wages is deducted directly by your employer according to your income tax rate as established by the tax authorities or, where applicable, by default.

Note that salaries are always paid monthly and at the end of the month or, at the latest, on the 1st of the following month.

Being self-employed

You can be a micro-entrepreneur up to a certain level of turnover (€70,000 for providing services under the category of Bénéfices Industriels et Commerciaux (industrial or commercial profits) or Bénéfices Non Commerciaux (non-commercial profits) and €170,000 for the sale of goods, objects, supplies, takeaway food or food consumed on the premises, or for accommodation services, with the exception of furnished residential, for which the threshold is €70,000).

Above this threshold you must choose another legal status for your activity. Note also that professions such as doctors and lawyers are highly regulated in France.

You should use the services of a chartered accountant to calculate your professional income each year before you declare it to the tax authorities and the various social security collection bodies (health, retirement etc.).

For advice about starting your own business, please visit www.afecreation.fr.

Income tax at source, introduced on 1st January 2019, also applies to self-employed workers. It is deducted monthly or quarterly from your business account according to your income for the previous year.

Your HSBC France Relationship Manager is also at your disposal to assist you professionally and personally(1).

Good to know

In order to ensure the best social security cover for self-employed people, the French government has created contingency, health and retirement policies known as "Madelin” policies. They allow self-employed workers to deduct their contributions(2) from their professional income.

Talk about it with your HSBC France adviser. 

Working hours

As you would expect working hours vary according to the company, the sector and the type of contract. To know at which time you start and finish your working day, ask or observe your colleagues.

In the middle of the day there is an almost sacred ritual – the famous pause déjeuner (lunch break). French people generally take a light breakfast, and they like to eat dinner relatively late. So, to keep themselves going they don’t hesitate to dedicate up to an hour for lunch. It must be eaten sitting down and, if possible, in good company.

Coffee break versus tea time

The French are big coffee drinkers. They often enjoy it black, and without sugar. And it’s around the coffee machine – not the water-cooler – that the most unmissable conversations take place.

Holidays : paid leave and RTT

And how do holidays fit in? Most private-sector employees get five weeks of paid leave a year. Some employees – depending on industry or company-specific agreements – can get more.

Depending on the size of the company you work for and the rules in your sector, you may also benefit from ‘RTT’ (Réduction du Temps de Travail) days on top of your paid holidays.

Finding Work

You are married to an expatriate worker and you want to find work while you’re living in France.

Your interview with the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (OFII) is a good time to say you're looking for a job in France. They will offer you a training course called “Living in and finding employment in France”.

For more information, please visit www.ofii.fr.

This course is a good opportunity to gather essential information as well as details of which organisations to contact, particularly the employment agency Pôle Emploi, and, for management roles, the APEC.

You can find information about finding work at www.pole-emploi.fr (in the Candidat section) and at www.apec.fr.

Documents to prepare

  • your CV listing your qualifications, expertise, experience and languages
  • a cover letter tailored to your target role and company
  • your qualifications as well as any certificates showing your proficiency in particular skills such as software or languages
  • proof of employment from previous jobs
  • references from previous employers

Preparing for retirement

The legal retirement age for private sector employees in France is currently 62 years for those born after 1955, and varies between 60 and 62 for people born before 1955.

This is the minimum age at which you can ask to receive a pension.

Assessment by quarter is an important principle used to calculate the pension to which you are entitled upon retirement. Using this principle, as soon as you work and whatever your status, you automatically contribute towards your future retirement. Contributions take the form of deductions from your salary, which are visible on your payslip under the headings retraite, or payments calculated according to your professional income if you are self-employed.

For managers, there are three levels of pension:

  • the basic pension paid by the mandatory Social Security system
  • the additional pension paid by AGIRC-ARRCO
  • the supplementary pension from optional schemes paid by your private insurance company

For an employee who is spending only a few years in France, pension rights are blocked until the legal retirement age. However, you can access these funds under certain conditions by contacting the appropriate organizations (Social Security, AGIRC-ARRCO and your insurance company).

Basic pension

Your pension depends on your salary up to the social security ceiling and is capped above this figure (€40,524 in 2019), the length of your contribution period and the applicable retirement age.

Your pension is calculated based on your 25 years of highest salary and you are guaranteed a full pension if you retire after the age of 67. Pensions are paid from the day of your retirement and until your death. When you die, your spouse or registered partner may have the right to a survivor’s pension, which cannot exceed 60% of the amount of your pension.

The AGIRC-ARRCO pension

Under this scheme your contributions each year are converted into retirement points. The number and value of your points, as well as the size of your family, determines the amount of your pension (increases are available from the third child).

When you die, your spouse may have the right to a survivor's pensionwhich cannot exceed 60% of your pension amount.

Supplementary pension

This is an optional pension, and to benefit from it you must subscribe to additional pension insurance.

(PERCO), employee savings with monthly payments or capital, for which they can benefit from an employer contribution, as well as Many companies also offer their employees Plans d’Epargne Retraite ComplémentairesArticle 83 contracts (Funded retirement with monthly payments).

(1) Subject to acceptance by HSBC France.

(2) Contributions are only deductible within certain limits. Taxation applicable as of 01/04/2019 to French tax residents, subject to subsequent amendments to tax legislation.

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