Employment in France is not ‘at will’ and thus dismissals may only come about on demonstrably and limited objective grounds which must be brought to the attention of the employee in writing.
There are four main ways of terminating an employment contract in France, (a) a resignation, (b) a dismissal, (c) a redundancy and (d) a mutual termination agreement. Each type of termination involves different procedural steps.
Poor performance alone would not constitute an admissible ground under French Law for a dismissal. Instead the employer is required to be able to demonstrate objectively that the employee is incapable of, and lacks the skills for, carrying out his work in a satisfactory manner.
Dismissals are subject to stringent, and often bureaucratic, procedural statutory constraints.
Redundancies, or lay-offs on economic grounds, are subject to separate and complex procedural and substantive constraints particularly in the case of multiple dismissals.
Legislative changes in 2002 mean that French Law is fast moving towards a situation where in essence the French entity (as opposed to the group to which it may belong) must be in a sufficiently severe economic situation to justify laying off staff or making them redundant.
There are a number of French State Agencies which have a statutory right to be advised of, and in some cases to authorise, proposed dismissals by private sector employers.
It is extremely easy and at virtually no cost for an employee to start litigation against his (ex) employer before separate Labour Courts.
Labour Relations Courts (Conseils de Prud’hommes) are generally made up of lay judges who are elected from the ranks of employer/employee organisations.
It is rare that the plaintiff be other than an employee and just as rare that claims be dismissed with no award whatsoever being made against the employer.
Regulations introduced in November 2016 set scales of damages in relating to employment litigation in the context of dismissal on personal grounds and redundancies.