The different contracts and their specificities in France

Mis à jour le Monday 19 December 2022

In France, French companies can use different types of employment contracts to hire employees.

Each employment contract has specific conditions, so the employer is not completely free to choose the contract they want. The age of the employee; the nature and duration of the assignments and the reasons for recruitment are all criteria that must be taken into account when choosing an employment contract in compliance with the legal conditions.

The different employment contracts in France give rise to sometimes complex social regulations. This is why we suggest that you review the various forms of contract in France and the conditions under which they can be used.

The concept of the employment contract

Under French law, an employment contract is obligatory from the moment an employer undertakes to recruit a person who will be under their management.

The employer may in some cases hire an employee without a written contract of employment. However, the fixed-term employment contract must be in writing.

The purpose of the employment contract is to set out the employee’s working conditions, rights and duties vis-à-vis the employer and to determine remuneration.

In concrete terms, the employment contract establishes the following main elements:

  • Employer’s contact details
  • Employee’s contact details
  • The date and time of hiring
  • The nature of the contract
  • remuneration
  • Qualification
  • working hours
  • The delivery of the work
  • The legal subordination relationship
  • The role and duties of the employee
  • Their personal qualification
  • Their hourly or flat rate remuneration
  • Notice period
  • The amount of paid leave

Summary table of the 4 most commonly used employment contracts

The fixed-term contract and the permanent contract are the two forms of contract most widely known and used by employers. Any time-limited contract must meet specific criteria laid down by law.

There are other types of employment contracts that employers can use depending on the nature of the activity and the age of the employee. The following table summarises the main features of these different contracts.

Nature of the contract Conditions and termination of contract Form of the contract and main obligations of the parties
Permanent contract (CDI) This is the normal form of employment contract. Any other form of employment contract is an exception.
The permanent contract has no fixed term but can be terminated in the following cases:
– at the request of the employer (dismissal)
– at the request of the employee (resignation)
– by mutual agreement (contractual termination).
The contract does not have to be in writing.
The employer is obliged to give the employee a copy of the declaration of employment or a document mentioning the important elements mentioned above.
Fixed-term contract (CDD) The fixed-term contract is an exception to the permanent contract.
It can only be concluded for specific reasons set out in the law.
It is signed for a specific period.
It can be renewed once under certain conditions.
If the employee stays on at the end of the fixed-term contract, the contract becomes a permanent contract.
The contract must be in writing.
Employees who have signed a fixed-term contract are entitled to paid leave.
If the contract is not renewed, employees are entitled to severance payment.
Defined purpose (CDD à objet défini)
(CDD de mission)
A fixed-term contract which ends when a defined purpose has been achieved.
It is reserved for the recruitment of engineers and managers.
It is concluded for a period of between 18 and 36 months and ends when the purpose for which it was concluded has been achieved.
The use of this contract is conditional on the conclusion of an extended branch* agreement or, failing that, a company* agreement providing for it.
Fixed-term contract senior (CDD senior) The CDD senior is a contract concluded under legal provisions designed to promote the recruitment of certain categories of unemployed people.
This contract concerns a specific section of the population: people over 57 years of age who have been looking for work for more than 3 months or who are beneficiaries of a personalised redeployment agreement.
The CDD senior can be concluded by all employers except agricultural professions.

The 3 contracts and arrangements for fixed-term employment

Some schemes and contracts allow employers to hire, via intermediaries, external skills that they lack internally and to determine in advance the duration of their intervention.

Temporary or Interim employment contract (CTT) The CTT concerns employees registered with a temporary work company or a temporary employment agency.
2 contracts are signed:
– a contract between the temporary employment agency and the user company
– a contract between the employee and the temporary employment agency.
A company hires a person and pays them to be available to a “user” company.
The employee is under the supervision and authority of the user company.
Construction or operational contract (CDI de chantier ou d’opération) This contract is concluded for a site or an operation.
The contract ends when the work is completed or the operation is carried out.
The CDI de chantier can be concluded by all branches of activity if there is an agreement or an extended collective agreement that sets out the conditions and procedures for its implementation.
Wage portage contract Wage portage is a tripartite contractual relationship between:
– an employee of an umbrella (wage portage) company
– a client company
– the umbrella company.
The employee of the umbrella company performs a service on behalf of client companies.
The commercial contract ends at the end of the consultant’s mission, the consultant’s employment contract continues according to the continuity of their independent activity.
The tripartite relationship is established within the framework of a commercial contract between the wage portage company and the client company and an employment contract between the wage portage company and the ported consultant.
The ported consultant must have at least a level 5 professional qualification (Bac +2) or a significant experience of at least 3 years in the same sector of activity.

Seasonal contracts

Seasonal contract This contract concerns tasks that are dictated by the different seasons and/or collective way of life (harvesting, gathering, tourism, etc.). The seasonal contract cannot be renewed if it is concluded in order to fill an effectively seasonal (non-permanent) job and in compliance with the rules on fixed-term contracts.
Harvest contract This contract falls into the category of seasonal contracts.
It is aimed at employers who need to recruit employees for the preparations necessary for particular seasonal work: grape harvesting, picking grapes, carrying hoods and baskets, tidying up, cleaning equipment.
This contract is drawn up for a period scheduled until the end of the harvest, unless it specifies the period for which it is concluded.
It is limited to 1 month.
No waiting period is required between two successive harvest contracts.

Sandwich course contracts

This category covers contracts that allow alternating periods of training and work (sandwich courses) in a company with the aim of obtaining a professional qualification recognised by a diploma or degree.

There are 3 such contracts and they generally concern young people between 16 and 25 years of age. The professionalisation contract may in some cases concern people over 26 years of age.

Apprenticeship contract The apprenticeship contract allows the apprentice to follow a sandwich course in a company under the responsibility of an apprentice tutor and in an apprentice training centre (CFA) for 6 months to 3 years.
This contract applies to all private sector companies, including associations.
The contract must be in writing.
It is of limited duration (CDL) or permanent (CDI).
The employer who concludes an apprenticeship contract is obliged to declare that they have taken the necessary measures for the organisation of the apprenticeship (equipment, techniques used, working, health and safety conditions, quality of the training provided by the apprenticeship tutor)
Professionalisation contract This contract enables young people or adults to acquire a professional qualification (diploma, degree, certificate of professional qualification, etc.) recognised by the State and/or the professional branch within the framework of continuing education. The contract must be in writing.
This contract concerns young people aged between 16 and 25 years old in order to complete their initial training and
jobseekers aged 26 years and over who are:
-Recipients of the RSA or
– Recipients of the specific solidarity allowance (ASS) or
– Recipients of the disabled adults allowance (AAH) or
-People leaving a single integration contract (CUI)
Single integration contract
This contract concerns:
-Local authorities or other legal entities under public law
-Companies responsible for managing a public service
The employment support contract (CUI-CAE) is aimed at the non-market sector in metropolitan France.
The employment initiative contract (CUI-CIE) covers the market sector in the overseas departments.
It is concluded for a fixed or indefinite term.
Its minimum duration is 6 months, its maximum duration, including renewals and extensions, is 2 years.


  • CDI: Articles L1221-6 to L1221-9 and Articles L1221-1 to L1221-5 of the Labour Code
  • CDD: Articles L1242-7 to L1242-9 and L1242-12 to L1242-13 of the Labour Code
  • Sandwich course contract: Articles L6325-1 to L6325-4-1 and Articles L5134-19-1 to L5134-19-5 and Article L5134-20 of the Labour Code
  • Wage portage: Articles L1254-1 to L1254-31 of the Labour Code
  • Contracts of availability: Articles L1251-42 to L1251-44 of the Labour Code
  • CDI de chantier ou d’opération: Articles L1223-8 to L1223-9  of the Labour Code
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