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France – 25,000 agency workers could get permanent contracts

04 March 2013

Unions and employers launched negotiations on Friday (1 March) to discuss potential changes to the French staffing industry. This includes reforming employment contracts which in France currently restrict temporary agency workers from supplying workers on permanent contracts.

There are two main types of employment contracts in France: the CDI (Contract Duration Indeterminée) which is an open-ended contract and the CDD (Contract Duration Determinée) which is a fixed-term contract. Up to now, staffing firms have been restricted from supplying workers on CDI contracts.

Following a landmark labour agreement in January, unions and employers have now been given a deadline running to June this year to negotiate the introduction of permanent contracts in the staffing sector. This has been coined “CDI intérimaire” and can be likened to the Swedish derogation in the UK. The Swedish derogation provides an exemption from current agency workers regulations regarding equal treatment in relation to pay where a worker is employed permanently by a staffing company and continues to be paid a minimum amount, of no less than 50% of their highest pay in the previous 12 weeks or the national minimum wage, between assignments.

The French federation of private employment agencies (PRISME) said that up to 25,000 workers could eventually be allowed to work on permanent contracts in France, if the negotiations are a success.

François Roux from PRISME said that other European countries already allow staffing firms to offer permanent contracts. In the Netherlands, he said, between 5 to 7% of agency workers are on permanent contracts. If France adopts similar figures, around 25,000 temporary workers could benefit from permanent contracts, mainly in skilled professions.  Mr Roux said that initial negotiations on Friday were “constructive”. 

The labour agreement also allows companies to cut wages and work time during a downturn. Legal procedures for layoffs have been simplified, putting a limit to the amount of time employees can dispute unfair dismissals from currently five years to 24 months. Unions have won extended rights to healthcare benefits while employers will face increased charges for short-term fixed contracts. 

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