UK company doing business in France

we are employing our first staff members in France and quickly learning about French labor codes and collective bargaining agreements (we are architects). does anyone have an English translation that they would be prepared to share?

we have a particular question relating to negotiating changes to the CBs directly with our employees on the payment of overtime, so if anyone has experience of this, I would love to hear about it.

I would also love to talk to any UK company doing business in France as to how they are set up, learning about the challenges and generally swapping stories.

can anyone help?



  • We registered as a foreign employer and employed cadres. It is expensive hiring in France. After paying all employer obligations such as social security, medical insurance, prevoyance, pension, this totalled around 40% on top of the gross pay. The biggest challenge I had was not being able to speak French, because all the labor laws and most online guidance are in French. The courts also only take notice of employment contracts and HR documents that are written in French. Most employees can work a maximum of 35 hours per week unless they are a cadre. 218 days is the maximum number of days of work, but there are ways to waive number of days off that is possible under the collective bargaining agreement but it has to be included in the contract. There are some very helpful people on this forum, e.g. Ray. But proper legal advice is important for France unless it is something straight forward.
  • Angela

    You clearly have a challenge ahead of you....but all is not as bad as it could be.

    The good news is that as an employer of less than 10 staff you there are lots of reporting and staff representation obligations that you do not fall under. For further details of obligations linked to staff numbers see here (in french I'm afraid)

    If you haven't already found it, the architectural national agreement is here - 37 pages in french

    Practically speaking french employment law is highly codified and procedural - you can make a procedural error and be in the wrong, even if you act reasonably. Because of this it's often a good idea to use a payroll bureau that also offers broader administrative HR services plus advice on basic employment law matters. Companies like ADP offer this service - at a price - worth contacting them to see what they can offer.

    As far as negotiating changes to collective agreements, since the agreements are national sectorial agreements, variations can only be better than what is aleady in the agreement - you cannot negotiate things out of the agreement.

    good luck with this fun project !