Financial Analyst cover letter template cover letter template header

A Guide to Employee Background Checks in France

Hiring in France? Learn the steps of running employee background checks, and enhance your candidate's hiring and screening process.

Michał Kowalewski
Written by Michał Kowalewski
March 29, 2024

Key takeaways

  1. Strict privacy laws require employers to prioritize candidate consent and limit the scope of checks. Information like political views, religious beliefs, and health records are generally off-limits.
  2. btaining written and informed consent from the candidate before initiating any background checks is crucial for compliance with GDPR and French Data Protection Laws.
  3. Different industries in France have varying needs for background checks. For example, financial services might require credit checks for senior positions, while healthcare might necessitate criminal record checks for patient safety (with consent).

France is a major player in the global talent market, attracting businesses with its skilled workforce. This, along with its central location in Europe, makes France an attractive choice for expansion.

But hiring in France has its own set of rules, especially when it comes to background checks. Unlike some countries, France doesn't require background checks by law. This focus on privacy means employers need a different approach compared to other regions.

This guide will explain how background checks work in France. We'll cover best practices, legal considerations, and what to expect in different industries. By understanding these details, you can hire top talent from France while staying compliant with French law.

Read on to learn:

  • How to run an effective and legal employment screening in France 
  • What are the common types of employee checks in France
  • Step-by-step process of a thorough employee screening
  • What mistakes to avoid when performing a background check in France

What is an employee background check?

An employee background check is the process of verifying a potential hire’s work history, education, professional qualifications, and any criminal records they might have. It’s particularly beneficial to run before finalizing an employment offer or signing a contract, ensuring the candidate meets the company's standards and requirements. 

Why are background checks important for global companies?

When performed right, employment background checks are a cornerstone of a global company's hiring strategy. By meticulously verifying the qualifications, work history, and potential legal issues of prospective hires, businesses can protect their operations on multiple fronts. Some of the main benefits of employee screening include:

  • Enhanced quality of hire: Background checks help verify a candidate's qualifications and experience, regardless of location. This reduces the risk of hiring someone who may not be suitable for the role, even if their resume appears strong

  • Global Workforce Security: Background checks, particularly those involving criminal records (with consent), can help identify candidates who may pose a safety risk to colleagues, customers, or company assets in any location

  • Reduced legal and financial risks: Verifying past employment and qualifications can help avoid potential legal issues arising from hiring someone who misrepresented their credentials. Additionally, background checks can help mitigate financial risks associated with fraud or theft

  • Building trust and reputation: Conducting background checks demonstrates a commitment to responsible hiring practices. This can help build trust with local stakeholders and protect the company's reputation in new markets

  • Standardized hiring practices: Background checks can help ensure a consistent and objective hiring process across different countries, reducing potential biases and promoting fair hiring practices

What should employers know before running a background check in France

France's approach to employee background checks is significantly influenced by its strict privacy laws and data protection regulations. The framework for conducting pre-employment background checks involves a combination of European Union and national regulations, with specific roles attributed to different institutions to ensure compliance and protect individual privacy:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): As the cornerstone of data protection in the EU, the GDPR outlines the principles and requirements for processing personal data. It highlights the need for lawful, fair, and transparent processing, with a strong focus on data minimization and purpose limitation. When conducting background checks, French employers must ensure their practices are in line with these GDPR principles, particularly when handling sensitive data or data concerning criminal convictions and offenses​​.

  • French Data Protection Act: This national law complements the GDPR in France, tailoring its principles to the specific legal and cultural context of the country. It outlines additional requirements and protections for personal data processing within France, providing a detailed framework for lawful background checks in the employment context.  

  • National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL): The CNIL is the French data protection authority responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with both the GDPR and the French Data Protection Act. It offers guidance and resources for employers on how to conduct background checks legally and ethically in France. The CNIL's role includes advising on the permissible scope of background checks, ensuring they respect individuals' rights and freedoms, and providing clarity on the nuances of French regulations in this area​​.

Are background checks legal in France?

Yes, background checks are legal in France, but they are subject to strict regulations to protect individuals' privacy rights. Employers must ensure that their background check practices comply with GDPR, the French Data Protection Act, and any relevant sector-specific legislation. Consent from the candidate is a cornerstone of conducting background checks legally in France. Even though the law does not specify it, written consent is recommended for documentation and compliance purposes. 

Restrictions and prohibited checks in France

French law prioritizes candidate privacy, placing limitations on background checks. Here's what employers should avoid:

  • Off-limit information: Checks into a candidate's political views, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or union affiliation are strictly prohibited. These aspects hold no relevance to job performance and can lead to discrimination charges

  • Financial background checks: Generally, checking an applicant's credit history is not allowed. However, an exception might be made for positions with significant financial responsibility (e.g., CFO). Even then, clear justification and transparency with the candidate are crucial

  • Health records and drug tests: Accessing a candidate's medical records or conducting drug tests without a clear and present necessity related to the job and legal authorization is illegal. The job role would need to demonstrably require such checks for safety or security reasons

  • Social media scrutiny: Social media screening is a grey area. While not explicitly prohibited, employers should be cautious. It's best to obtain written consent before reviewing social media profiles, and even then, the focus should be on job-related aspects, not personal life

  • Criminal records: Accessing a candidate's full criminal record typically requires their express consent and justification based on the specific job role (e.g., security positions). Employers cannot use minor or irrelevant offenses to disqualify a candidate

Common background check industries in France

In France, various industries rely on employee background checks to ensure the integrity and reliability of their workforce. Some of the common industries where background checks are prevalent include:

  • Finance and Banking: Background checks are rigorous to protect client assets and comply with regulations. They typically involve verification of criminal records (fraud, embezzlement), employment history and references for financial conduct, educational qualifications relevant to finance, and potential sanctions list inclusions

  • Healthcare: Patient safety is paramount. Background checks for medical professionals often include verification of education and licenses, any disciplinary actions from medical boards, and criminal records (limited scope) related to violence, drug offenses, or other threats to patient safety (with candidate consent and job relevance considered)

  • Education:  Schools prioritize student safety. Background checks for teachers and staff often involve criminal record checks (violence, child abuse), reference checks to assess teaching skills and suitability for working with children, and verification of relevant teaching qualifications and certifications

  • Information Technology (IT):  With the rising threat of cybercrime, IT companies rely heavily on background checks. This typically involves verification of criminal records (cybercrime, hacking), employment history in IT security roles to confirm skills and experience, and security clearance checks for highly sensitive positions

Types of background checks in France

Effective employment screening in France covers essential aspects to evaluate a candidate's abilities. Knowing these areas helps employers tailor screening processes to meet job requirements and legal standards.

Type of check Common in France Reason
Criminal record check (Bulletin No. 3) Common Ensures legal compliance and assesses candidate's suitability based on criminal history
Employment history Common Verifies the candidate's professional experience and reliability
Educational verification Common Confirms the authenticity of academic qualifications
Professional references Common Provides insights into the candidate's work ethic and professional demeanor
Credit history Less common Used for roles with financial responsibilities to assess financial reliability and integrity
Health records Less common Relevant for positions requiring certain physical abilities or health conditions
Social media screening Less common Evaluates personal conduct and professionalism online, reflecting on workplace behavior
Drug tests Less common Important for safety-sensitive roles to ensure a drug-free workplace environment

Background check mistakes to avoid in France

Whether you’re hiring employees or contractors in France, there are a few things you shouldn’t do as an employer when it comes to background checks:

  • Consent conundrum and legal labyrinth: In France, GDPR compliance is crucial.  Obtain written and informed consent from the candidate before initiating checks.  French law also restricts the scope of checks, prohibiting inquiries into personal beliefs, and limiting access to criminal records based on job relevance and candidate consent

  • Cultural faux pas and transparency matters:  Respect French privacy sensibilities.  Be transparent about the background check process and its purpose. Retain data only for legal necessities, and remember candidates have the right to access the information collected.

  • Data security, information accuracy, and time management: Implement strong data security measures.  Utilize reliable sources and verify the accuracy of information obtained during background checks.  Don't rush the process to ensure thoroughness and compliance.

  • Feedback and avoiding adverse action without explanation: If negative information arises, provide the andidate an opportunity to explain the situation before making a hiring decision.  Always avoid making adverse decisions without offering a chance for explanation.

Step-by-step guide to employee background checks in France

Employers looking to hire in France should follow the list of steps below to ensure legal and effective and thorough employee background checks.

  1. Obtain candidate consent:  Start by securing explicit consent from the candidate, clearly stating the types of checks to be conducted
  2. Verify identity and civil status: Use government-issued documents to confirm the candidate's identity and legal status in France
  3. Check educational background: Contact educational institutions directly or use verified third-party services to validate degrees and certifications.
  4. Verify employment history: Approach previous employers (with the candidate's consent) to confirm positions held and job performance
  5. Check criminal record: Request a Bulletin No. 3 from the French Ministry of Justice, which shows convictions for crimes and misdemeanors, only with the candidate’s explicit consent and if relevant to the job.
  6. Verify professional references: Contact provided references to gain insights into the candidate's work ethic and professional demeanor
  7. Comply with sector-specific requirements: Some sectors may require additional checks (e.g., finance, healthcare), so ensure compliance with these industry standards
  8. Check social media and online presence: With consent, review publicly available information that is relevant to the job role
  9. Review public records and sanctions lists: Check for any relevant public record information that could impact the candidate’s suitability for the role
  10. Make the final assessment and decision: Compile all gathered information to make a well-informed hiring decision

You can also automate this process using Deel, and get a fast employee background check, with results coming in a matter of minutes.

After exploring various providers, it's clear that Deel is the best on the market. We were able to hire approximately 40 employees in the Philippines within a matter of months. Their background check process was easy and effective and made us feel safe about hiring in new markets. We're truly grateful for the opportunity to work with this tea!

Bree Cohen, VP of Talent, Power Digital Marketing

Run employee background checks with Deel

There’s no need for HR to log into yet another platform or manually chase documents. With screenings in over 200 countries and territories (and counting), for employees and contractors, you can manage background checks for global hires with a single source of truth without leaving the Deel platform.

Are you looking for an easy way to run a fast background check? Look no further, and let Deel take care of that for you.

Deel makes growing remote and international teams effortless. Ready to get started?






Legal experts