French law offers no explicit statutory framework for handling background checks, but contains provisions concerning admissible acquisition of data relating to applicants.
1. General legal framework on background checks when hiring
The employer can only collect information about candidates, which facilitates the assessment of their professional skills with regard to the position that is offered. These professional skills must be directly required for the position.
2. Tools used to conduct background checks
Employers may make use of all information from the Internet, irrespective of whether it was posted on social or work-oriented networks. In France, the private employer is generally prohibited from reviewing any previous convictions, as well as the candidate’s financial position.
If applicable, the employer can – only by setting forth a legitimate interest – ask for extract n°3 of the police record, which lists the heaviest penalties and can only be applied for by the candidate himself, safe exceptions in the fields of banking and healthcare.
3. Interviews with potential candidates
The employer has the right to ask questions pertaining to the candidate’s professional background (previous positions, former employer, grounds for previous termination, if he is held by a non-compete clause, etc.) and to request for the production of documents such as work certificates (but not pay slips), diplomas, driver’s license (if appropriate), etc.
It is an obligation to check that the employee holds a specific enabling when required (i.e. administrative agreement or professional card).
4. Pre-employment skill testing
Pre-employment testing constitutes a pertinent method to assess the professional qualification of the candidate and his ability to perform the proposed duties.
Moreover, drug and alcohol screening of employees is allowed pursuant to the employer’s disciplinary powers, but only under certain conditions (for example, that the screening is provided by the internal rules of the company).
5. Storing data
The employer may store the data collected on the candidates only the time necessary for the hiring process, unless the storing is authorized by the CNIL. However, the storing cannot exceed two years from the last contact with the person.
6. Legal Sanctions
If the employer violates the above-referenced legal provisions or employee rights, the employee can claim damages or sanctions under criminal law.