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You wish to maintain contact with educational institutions, promote the professional integration of young recruits and benefit from skills at a lower cost by welcoming one or several interns within your company: here are some key advices to avoid the pitfalls of regulation.

# 1 – What is the difference with an employee (salaried) job?

An internship is not a job. An intern is not bound by an employment contract and does not benefit from an employee status. In theory, you should not draw any direct benefit from the presence of an intern in your company.

Therefore under no circumstances can an internship agreement be executed for:

  • performing a regular task corresponding to a permanent work station;
  • facing a temporary increase in the company’s activity;
  • carrying out seasonal work; or
  • replacing an employee who is absent or whose contract is suspended.

Internships correspond to temporary periods of training in a professional environment for the purpose of acquiring professional skills and implementing the knowledge obtained from education with a view to obtain a diploma or certification (article L. 124-1 of the French Education Code).

N.B. Entrusting an intern with tasks that are dangerous for his/her health or safety is prohibited.

# 2 – The two golden rules of internships in French companies

Limited duration of the internship:

  • The duration of the internship(s) completed by a same intern in your company cannot exceed 6 months per academic year.
  • The successive recruitment of interns under different internship agreements, to complete internships at a same post, is only possible after the expiry of a waiting period of one third of the duration of the previous internship.

Limited number of interns within your company:

The number of interns whose internship agreement is in progress during a same calendar week in your company may not exceed:

  • 15% of the staff in host organisations having a staff of at least 20 persons (the number of interns vis-à-vis the staff being rounded up to the next whole number); and
  • 3 interns for host organisations having less than 20 persons in their staff.

# 3 – What are the “working time” rules applicable to your intern?

Your intern is subject to the rules applicable to your company’s employees with regards to:

  • maximum daily and weekly attendance times;
  • presence at night;
  • daily rest period, weekly rest period and public holidays; and
  • pregnancy, paternity or adoption.

Tip: don’t forget to count your intern’s attendance times (through badges for instance).

# 4 – When do you have to compensate your intern?

It is compulsory to pay a compensation (or “internship gratification”) when the intern’s presence in the company exceeds 2 months during the academic year, i.e.:

  • more than 44 days of presence, consecutive or not, for 7 hours per day;
  • or more than 308 hours of presence, even non-continuously, on the basis of a different daily duration.

Below this period, the payment of a gratification remains optional and subject to “negotiation” between you and your intern.

N.B. If the gratification is due (legally or voluntarily), it is due monthly, starting from the first day of the first month of the internship period (and not as from the 2-month internship threshold).

# 5 – How to determine the amount of gratification due to the intern?

The amount of the gratification, to be paid monthly, has to be specified in the internship agreement.

This amount may be determined by the applicable branch agreement or by extended professional agreement.

Failing that, a minimum gratification must be paid to your intern. The intern has to receive, per hour of presence, a gratification at least equal to 15% of the hourly social security ceiling amounting to 25 euros in 2018. Thus the minimum gratification per hour of presence equals to 3.75 euros in 2018.

For instance: in the event of a 6-month internship beginning in January 2018 for a daily time of 7 hours, with 154 hours completed in January (i.e. 22 days), a minimum gratification of 577.50 euros is due to your intern in respect of January.

A: Hourly rate of gratification 15% x 25 = 3.75 euros
B: Number of internship hours in January 7 x 22 = 154
C: Total gratification due for January A x B = 3.75 x 154 = 577.50 euros

Tip: we recommend contacting the person that prepares your pay slips. Also, don’t hesitate to use the calculation simulator of the administration.

Bonus tip: two payment options are possible: (i) a payment depending on the number of hours actually completed each month or (ii) a monthly smoothing (lissage mensuel) of the gratification due for the entire internship duration (allowing the payment of an identical amount each month).

N.B. If the gratification does not exceed the minimum hourly amount, it is exempt from social costs for the host organisation and the intern (CSG and CRDS are not incurred). Beyond the legal minimum, the gratification is however subject to social contributions beyond the deductible threshold, such contributions being calculated over the excess portion (difference between the amount actually paid and the deductible of contributions). The gratification is exempt from tax on income up to the annual minimum wage (SMIC).

# 6 – The arrival of the intern within your company

The prerequisite is the execution of the internship agreement: it is the mandatory legal framework binding the intern, your company, as well as the educational institution of your intern. In particular, it sets out the rights and obligations of the parties, the entrusted activity(ies) to your intern and the procedures for suspending and terminating the agreement. Please also note that the internship agreement must also include certain mandatory legal and regulatory express mentions (especially the identity of the intern’s tutor within the company).

Bonus tip: at the drafting stage of the agreement, don’t forget to deal with the transfer of the intellectual property rights attached to creations and inventions of your interns. These rights are never automatically transferred to the company (see our dedicated article).

Although your intern is not included among the workforce of your company, you are nevertheless required to register, in a specific part of your personnel register, the full names of your interns, their starting and end dates of internship, as well as the full name of their tutor, in the order in which the interns arrive.

N.B. This information must be kept for 5 years as from the date on which an intern leaves the company.

The positive outcomes:

  • no pre-employment declaration (déclaration préalable à l’embauche) is required;
  • your intern is automatically registered for social security by his/her educational institution;
  • the tutor you appoint may supervise up to three interns at the same time.

Tip: make sure your insurance policy(ies) cover(s) damage caused or suffered by your interns.

# 7 – What happens if you want to hire your intern?

The hiring of your intern at the end of the internship period (for instance through execution of an indefinite-term employment contract – see here our standard model for companies subject to the “Syntec” collective agreement) may result in certain consequences both with regards to the trial period and to the seniority of the future employee:

Impact on the trial period:

If you hire your intern within 3 months as from the end of an internship that is part of his/her educational curriculum completed during his/her final year of education, two situations arise:

  • if you recruit your intern for a post corresponding to the activities he/she was entrusted with during his/her internship, the duration of the internship will be fully deducted from the trial period;
  • if the activities are different, the duration of his/her internship will be deducted from the trial period, it being specified that such reduction cannot exceed one half of the trial period (unless the collective agreement provides more favourable conditions).

Impact on the seniority of the recruited intern:

When you hire your intern at the end of an internship of more than 2 months, the duration of this internship is taken into account in the opening-up and calculation of rights linked to seniority.

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Don’t wait for a dispute or an inspection to arise to set up a proper policy for receiving and monitoring your interns: this way, you will be able to minimize the risks of re-characterization of your internship agreement(s) into employment agreement(s) and/or potential administrative fines (up to 4,000 euros) in case of infringements of regulation.

One final tip: we recommend consulting the Government’s practical guide for student placements (Ministère de lʼEnseignement supérieur, de la Recherche et de lʼInnovation).