Employment relationships in France are highly regulated, especially when it comes to dismissals. The French Labor Code states that any dismissal letter must be sent by registered post, with a signature on delivery. Employers are required to do this for evidential purposes and to avoid any doubts over the date of notification of dismissal.
It is not unusual for those companies based outside France which do not have a French HR representative to ask local lawyers to send any dismissal letter on their behalf. This practice has however now been held to be invalid. The Versailles Court of Appeal has made it clear that sending dismissal letters via a third party (in this case the company’s lawyers) means that the dismissal procedure is flawed. Whilst this does not render a dismissal unlawful, it will entitle an employee to an additional award of compensation. In the case in question, the company, a UK-based employer with only isolated employees working in France, had sent a redundancy dismissal letter (signed by the company’s UK-based European General Manager) via its lawyers. The Labor Court and the Court of Appeal both concluded that by doing so the employer had automatically invalidated the dismissal procedure and awarded the employee some compensation in respect of that breach.
Until we have any differing views from the Supreme Court, employers based outside France are advised to proceed with caution and ensure that any redundancy and dismissal letters are sent direct from the company by registered post with acknowledgement of receipt or alternatively by using a bailiff. Whilst companies such as DHL and Fedex can also be used to deliver such letters, this is not the preferred option because they do not always provide acknowledgment of receipt services.