In both France and the United States, internships have historically been a huge problem. While interns are supposed to gain work experience and insight into a particular industry in exchange for their time and efforts, many companies see interns as a replacement for full-time employees, and neglect interns’ responsibility to get an education and develop their technical skills.

Instead of hiring entry-level employees, companies have decided instead to hire interns, paying them peanuts (or not at all)

Since 2009, strict laws govern internships (or “stages”) in France in an effort to crack down on companies hiring interns instead of creating jobs for regular employees.

Internships in France must be paid if they meet two criteria:

1) The internship lasts longer than 2 months.
2) The intern works more than 40 days during the internship period.

The amount of the internship stipend, however, is a minimal amount to cover living expenses and is not intended to be a proper “salary,” and must be laid out in the convention de stage before the student is hired.

The internship stipend is calculated based on a percentage of the “plafond horaire” of sécurité sociale, which is currently €23 per hour. The internship rate is 12.5% of that figure per hour, or €2.875, and multiplied by the number of hours worked.

For a full-time intern, the stipend is 2.875 x ({35 hours per week x 52 weeks per year} / 12 months per year) = 2.875 x 151.67 hours of work per month = €436.05

The minimum stipend for a full-time intern is thus €436.05 per month.

What does this stipend amount mean?

€436.05 is the MINIMUM amount your employer can pay you per month for an internship. Companies can (and do) choose to pay more, especially in competitive fields like finance and law. There is no maximum stipend for an internship, just some additional social charges to pay on the higher amount.

What if I leave my internship?

If you leave your internship and break it in accordance with the convention de stage signed with your school and employer, you are entitled to the prorated amount of your stipend for the time you worked.

In other words, your employer can’t punish you for not finishing your internship by withholding wages. If you worked for 2 weeks out of the month, you would get 50% of the stipend you were otherwise due.

Here’s what’s not taken into account:

Social Charges

You and your employer don’t pay any social charges on the minimum stipend amount. If your employer pays you more than the minimum stipend, you will both pay social charges on the industry rate (about 42-45% total) on the amount over and above the minimum. Therefore, if you earn €1000 gross per month, you’ll only pay social charges on €563.95 per month.

Your gross income would be €436 + (563.95x78%) = €436 + €440 = €876.

When you do pay social charges on your income, you are not required to pay “chômage” (unemployment insurance) because you will not be entitled to unemployment benefits when your internship ends. That saves you 2.4% of taxes on your stipend as well.

Public Transportation

If you take public transportation to your internship, your employer will pay for 50% of your month subway pass, currently worth about €33 per month. This amount is added to your stipend and not taxed.

Tickets Restaurant

Tickets Restaurant are subsidized vouchers for prepared food provided by many companies that don’t have cafeterias on site. In fact, companies of a certain size are required to provide them to their employees if they don’t have a designated kitchen.

If you buy tickets restaurant thorugh your employer, you and the company each pay half. Then, you use the full face value of the voucher to buy sandwiches, meals in restaurants, or prepared meals in grocery stores. You can only use them to buy ready to eat food in venues that accept them, and you can only use 2 tickets per trip. But if you eat out of your home often or buy lots of prepared meals, it’s a great way to have your employer pay for half of your food.

Your employer is required to offer you tickets restaurant if they are offered to other employees, and it’s a great way to increase your monthly food budget. You can buy €50 of tickets restaurant for €25 (taken out of your paycheck), effectively increasing your income by €25.

Other Benefits in Kind

Your employer cannot reduce the stipend you receive for any reason, even if they provide other benefits like a housing subsidy.

Income Taxes

If your internship is less than 3 months, you do not have to declare your income on your French income taxes, no matter how much you make. However, if your internship is longer than 3 months, you do have to declare your income. (And, if you’re American, you have to declare this income on your US tax return, regardless of whether it’s taxable in France.)

But, if you’re a student under 26, you don’t have to declare your income if you earned less than 3 times the monthly SMIC (€4,236 in 2012, adjusted for inflation in 2013 and 2014).

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