Terminating your employment contract with notice

All employees have the right to resign, that is, to terminate their employment contract at their own initiative. To terminate their labour contract, employees must demonstrate their serious and unequivocal intent to do so.

The employee must comply with certain formal and notice-period requirements when resigning.

Who is concerned

Employees:

  • whose employment contract is a:
    • permanent contract (contrat à durée indéterminée – CDI); or
    • fixed-term contract (contrat à durée déterminée – CDD), subject to certain conditions; or
  • on a trial period.

Deadlines

Worker with a permanent employment contract

Except in the case of serious misconduct on the part of the employer, the employee must observe a notice period, the duration of which will depend on their length of service in the company:

  • less than 5 years: 1 month;
  • between 5 years and less than 10 years: 2 months;
  • 10 years at least: 3 months.
Employees may not impose on their employer, without the latter's consent, a different notice period than that required by law.

Worker with a fixed-term employment contract

An employee may resign during their trial period. Once their trail period has expired, the employee may only terminate their employment contract in the event of:

Except in these circumstances, a fixed-term employment contract may not be terminated before its planned end date without the infringing party being liable for damages.

During the trial period (permanent or fixed-term contract)

The employee:

The notice period is calculated based on the duration of the trial period. When the duration of the trial period is expressed:

  • in weeks (trial periods lasting less than a month): the notice period shall be as many days as there are weeks in the trial period;
  • in months (trial periods lasting longer than a month): the notice period shall be 4 days per month of the trial period. It may not be:
    • less than 15 days;
    • or more than one month.

To protect the employee in the event of dismissal during the trial period, the employment contract may provide for a longer notice period for the employer, but not for the employee.

Notice period for an employee during the trial period

Duration of the trial period

Notice period (calendar days)

2 weeks

Cannot be terminated
except for serious misconduct

3 weeks

3 days

4 weeks

4 days

2 months

15 days

3 months

15 days

4 months

16 days

5 months

20 days

6 months

24 days

7 months

28 days

8-12 months

1 month

How to proceed

Form of termination of an employment contract

The employee must express their desire to resign in a clear, thought out and unequivocal manner.

To submit their letter of resignation to their employer, the employee may choose to:

  • send it by registered post; or
  • hand-deliver it to the employer, who must sign a copy of the letter to acknowledge receipt.

The employee must specify in the letter that they are giving notice of resignation.

Notice of an employee's resignation in another form is not, however, automatically considered irregular and still may be legally valid.

An oral resignation or a forced resignation is usually not recognised.

No explicit reason for resignation

There is no need to provide a reason for the resignation. The employee is free to leave the company.

Once notice has been given, the resignation is irrevocable unless the employer allows it to be withdrawn.

Starting point of notice period

In the case of a permanent employment contract

The notice period begins:

  • on the 15th of the month, if the resignation is sent before the 15th of the month (date as per postmark);
  • on the 1st of the following month, if the letter is sent on or after the 15th of the month (date as per postmark).

During the trial period

The notice period begins on the day after notification of termination of the contract during the trial period.

N.B.: The notice period must begin during the trial period and end no later than the last day thereof. Failing this, the contract is recategorised as a permanent employment contract.

Example: if the trial period runs until 31 March, the 24-day notice period must end on 31 March at the latest.

If the remainder of the trial period makes it impossible to respect the prescribed notice period, the employee must follow the rules applicable to the termination of a permanent employment contract.

Resignation of a female employee during maternity leave

A female employee who opts to raise her child after her maternity leave does not have to return to work, and there is no need to comply with a notice period. In this case, the employee needs to send a letter of resignation after her maternity leave.

This does not apply to employees who, at the end of their maternity leave, wish to leave and work for another employer.

Rights and obligations during the notice period

Misconduct

Any misconduct committed before or during the notice period is punishable in the same way. Thus, an employment contract can be terminated immediately for serious misconduct during the notice period.

Leave

During the notice period, an employee may take the remainder of their annual leave, but cannot be forced to do so.

However, the employer may deny the employee the requested leave if staffing requirements dictate that they do so.

Leave due but not yet taken at the end of the notice period is paid at the same time as the last pay packet, in the form of a compensatory benefit for leave days not taken. The same applies, on a pro rata basis, to any bonuses/gratuities (e.g., 13th month bonus, end-of-contract gratuity...).

Illness

The notice period is a fixed period of time. Thus, it cannot be extended in the event that the employee falls ill. The notice period therefore ends on the date originally scheduled, even if the employee is ill throughout the entire notice period.

Indemnities

If they resign, the employee is not entitled to:

  • any severance pay: even if they have been working for the same employer for over 5 years;
  • or to any unemployment benefits: by resigning, they are deemed to be voluntarily giving up work.

Time savings account

Upon an employee's resignation, if there is a time savings account in place, the employer is required to liquidate the balance of the employee's saved leave days by paying a compensatory benefit in lieu of those due leave days.

Penalties for failure to observe a notice period

Employees with a permanent employment contract or on a trial period who decide to resign without observing the required notice period may be ordered to pay their employer compensation in lieu of notice.

This corresponds to the salary due for that part of the notice period during which the employee has not fulfilled their professional obligations.

The compensation is not payable if there has been serious misconduct on the part of the employer.

Exemption from work

There are 2 hypothetical situations:

  • in their letter of resignation, the employee asks to be exempted from work during the notice period: if the employer agrees, then the contract is terminated by mutual agreement between the parties; or
  • the employer grants an employee who wishes to resign an exemption from work. In this case, the employee:
    • is released from their obligation to come to work;
    • continues to receive their salary during the notice period;
    • may begin working for a new employer. In that case, the employee loses their entitlement to their remaining salary. However, until the end of the notice period, their former employer must pay them the difference between their former and new salary, if the latter is less.

In principle, the exemption from work must be granted in writing. This way, the employee:

  • has proof of the exemption;
  • cannot be sanctioned for unjustified absence.

However, in the event of a dispute, if the exemption from work was agreed to orally, the employee is entitled to use any means at their disposal to prove its existence, and particularly testimonials by third parties.

An exemption from work from work must not result in a reduction in the salary, compensation and other benefits to which the employee would have been entitled if they had performed their work.

Termination of the employment contract before actual employment

An employment contract may specify that work is to begin on a date after the contract has been signed.

If the employee terminates the contract before actually beginning work, they may be required to compensate the employer. Indeed, both the employee and the employer are bound by the obligation to perform the contract in good faith.

However, in order to receive compensation, the employer must prove that they have suffered damage.

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