Under French employment law, the termination of an employment contract by either of the parties must be preceded by a notice period during which the employment contract remains effective and binding on both parties.
Such requirement of prior notice is provided by the law particularly in case of resignation, dismissal (except in case of gross and willful misconduct of the employee) or voluntary and involuntary retirement.
Performance of the notice
In principle, the employee must continue to work during the notice period, and in turn the employee will receive his/her usual remuneration since the employment contract is fully maintained during the notice period and the employment contract will only expire at the end of such notice. However, the employer is entitled to release the employee from continuing to work during his/her notice period provided that the employee continues to be remunerated at the normal payment dates. If the employee refuses to continue to perform his/her job during the notice period, the employer is entitled to claim damages, though such possibility is mainly theoretical.
In the event it is the employee who wishes to be released from working during his/her notice period, he/she must obtain the employer’s consent, in which case the employment contract is terminated immediately.
Duration of the notice period
The duration of the notice period will depend principally on the type of termination, the applicable collective bargaining agreement, the professional category to which the employee belongs and the employee’s length of service.
In particular, in the event of resignation, the existence and duration of the notice period is determined by the applicable collective bargaining agreement or the professional general practices.
In the event of dismissal, the law provides that an employee is entitled to a notice the duration of which varies depending on his/her seniority as follows:
– Length of service of less than 6 months: notice period applicable in case of resignation;
– Length of service comprised between 6 months and less than 2 years: one month;
– Length of service of at least 2 years: 2 months.
However, these specific duration periods only apply in the absence of a more favorable notice period stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement, the employment contract or fixed by customary practices. In this regard, the collective bargaining agreements generally set the duration of the applicable notice period on the basis of the employee’s classification and in some cases his/her seniority and his/her age.
Specificity of the termination during the trial period
During the trial period, the employer is allowed to terminate the employment contract without any justification and without the obligation to follow the dismissal procedure. However, the employee is still entitled to a specific notice period the duration of which is determined by the law depending on the employee’s time of presence (subject to more favorable notice otherwise provided) as follows:
– 24 hours if the employee’s time of presence is less than 8 days;
– 48 hours between 8 days and one-month’s time of presence;
– 2 weeks after one month’s time of presence and;
– 1 month after three months of time of presence.
In case of termination by the employee, the notice period is 48 hours, reduced to 24 hours if his/her time of presence is less than 8 days.