One of the flagship measures of the French law on lifelong training, the DIF is a system whereby employees of a company are entitled to receive professional training, either during or outside of their regular working hours. These courses are funded by the employer, and the employee continues to receive their normal salary while training. For each year they are employed, an employee gains credit for 20 hours of training per year (or more in some cases), which can accumulate up to a maximum of 6 years, or 120 hours*. French companies are required to inform their employees of the number of hours of DIF training credit they have earned, either by including this information on their payslip, or by providing a separate document.
*If the hours have not been used by the end of the 6-year period, no further hours will be accumulated.
All private-sector employees are entitled to take advantage of the DIF. This entitlement is valid for full and part-time workers on permanent contracts (CDI) and temporary contracts (CDD), as well as temporary staff. Whatever the type of contract, the same 20-hour credit is gained each year, up to a maximum of 6 years. Staff on a CDI must have worked in their company for at least one year before being eligible for training under the DIF scheme. For part-time workers, the DIF entitlement is calculated based on the number of hours worked.
People employed on a CDD can claim training credits if they have worked in the same company for 4 out of the last 12 months. Their entitlement is calculated on a pro-rata basis.
Since 2010, it has been possible for unemployed people to claim training under the DIF from their previous employer, up to 2 years after leaving (except in case of dismissal for misconduct). The number of hours that can be claimed is shown on the certificate of employment (certificat de travail) issued by the person’s last employer, and equates to the amount of training credits accumulated while working in their previous position.
Any kind of training aimed at refreshing or increasing an employee’s skills and knowledge can be considered for funding, such as gaining a new qualification or carrying out a personal skills assessment (bilan de compétences). The only condition is that the employer agrees to the type of training being put forward. To increase the chances of an employer agreeing to finance a particular course, it is a good idea to ensure it is relevant to the employee’s role, and that it will benefit both the company and the member of staff making the request.
An employee undergoing training continues to benefit from the same protection under French social security legislation with regard to illness and accidents at work.
If training takes place outside of normal working hours, the employee will receive a training allowance of 50% of their normal salary (after tax). If the training takes place during working hours, the employee receives their normal salary. All expenses relating to training are paid by the employer.
Once a written request for funding has been submitted, the employer has one month to reply to that request, also in writing. If no reply is received within one month, the request is automatically considered to have been granted.
If an employer refuses to fund training in two consecutive years, the employee can take advantage of priority access to a CIF (Congé Individuel de Formation), a different training system whereby a staff member can take a training course during a period of paid leave.