Trial period: maximum duration

Trial period – maximum duration to be respected: trial period durations provided for by CBAs that exceed the duration of the French Labor Code regulations are no longer applicable!

Trial period: maximum duration based on labor code

Since 2008, the French Labor Code stipulates the maximum durations of trial periods. For instance, for a permanent contract, the French employment contract can be concluded with a maximum trial period of:
– 2 months for workers and employees;
– 3 months for supervisors and technicians;
– 4 months for ‘cadre’-level staff.
If stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement, and in the employment contract, the trial period can be renewed once, often for the same duration.

Trial period: longer duration based on CBA

To be noted, many French CBAs provide for different durations of the trial period. Whether this specific duration is applicable or not depends on the date of signature of the CBA agreement and the specific duration of this trial period.

Previous legal position: longer duration valid if justified

Until recently, the regulations of CBAs agreements that were signed before 26 June 2008 and that provide for longer trial periods remained applicable. For instance, the CBA ‘notaries’ stipulated a trial period of 5 months for ‘cadre’-level staff. Other sectors concerned are banking and real estate.

Whereas this longer duration has been judged invalid as considered excessive in certain cases, for certain job categories this might be justified. Whether or not the specificities and constraints of the position justified a longer trial period had to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Present legal position: maximum duration provided by Labor Code to be respected

However, from 10 September 2023, it will no longer be possible to apply a trial period that exceeds the legal duration. This legal change, based on the law ‘DDADUE’, aligns French laws with European law. First published in March 2023, it comes into force 6 months after the promulgation of the law.

In the meantime, the content of several CBAs that initially provided for longer durations has already been adapted.

For instance, in the banking sector, the trial period for ‘cadre’ staff was reduced from 6 months to 4 months. Another example is the CBA notaries: the previous 5-month trial period for ‘cadre’-level staff was reduced to 4 months, renewable for another 2 months.

The trial period is an important consideration when drafting a French employment contract. To ensure a valid trial period clause, the maximum duration must be respected.