What are internships in France like?

Internships enable students to apply all the theory they have learned at school in a new context: the working world. The purpose is to gain their first work experience related to their career. Moreover, since the 9th September 2010, only internships within the framework of a tripartite convention (between a student, an enterprise and an educational institution) are legal.

For this reason, an agreement in which all the information of the internship is relayed is now required: start and end dates, internship’s duration, weekly working time and the internship’s programme including the tasks and the targets. Also the amount paid, social security, insurance and the name of your tutor.

The duration of your internship will depend of course on your studies (Certificate d’Aptitude Professionnelle -CAP-, Brevet de Technicien Supérieur -BTS-, professional baccalaureate, business school…). In addition, in the case of an optional internship, it cannot last more than six months (article 9 of law nº2006-396 pertaining to the equality of opportunity). However, there is nothing written about mandatory internships.

Regarding the remuneration, there is no salary but rather a gratuity which is optional for internships which last less than two months – you can negotiate it with the employer. On the contrary, it is compulsory for internships which last more than two months. The quantity is set depending on the enterprise agreement. If there is not any agreement, the enterprise has to pay the maximum amount – which since 2013 is 2.875 euros, meaning 436.05 euros per month if you work 35 hours a week. If the internship is extended, the employer is obliged to pay the intern the money of the first two months.

The intern still benefits from the social security he purchased when he registered in university. Nevertheless, it is recommended to purchase supplementary insurance for accident and liability risks. Moreover, the intern has the right to have the same working rights as the other employees at the company (working time, weekly rest, protection against discrimination and harassment, etc.).

Yet, the intern is not entitled to paid holidays since he has neither an employed status nor an employment contract. On the contrary, it is possible to take days off if your internship extends or if it is a long-term internship – but, again, you have to talk to your employer.

Foreign interns have to take some extra steps in organising a placement– nothing too complicated though. The intern can also receive a temporary residence card bearing the words “intern”. In order to obtain it, the intern must perform an internship in an enterprise within the framework of a training programme in his home country under a school or university programme, vocational training, a European Union cooperation programme or an intergovernmental programme.

Finally, it is important to remember that an internship cannot in any circumstances replace remunerated employment. In the event of abuse or dispute, do not hesitate to appeal to the “Conseil des Prud’hommes” (labour tribunal) or even the URSSAF in order to transform your CDD (fixed-term contract) into a CDI (open-ended contract).

Interns are very well protected in France so you are always going to find someone to assist you if you have any problems.

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