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What are the options to work as a couple in France?

My husband and I live in France and plan to launch a small (online) business together. Can you explain the main options for doing this? Can one of us work without being paid, at least at first?  T.B.

The main issue to resolve here is what status you should both have within the business. 

The Finance Ministry estimates that around 30% of business owners in France work alongside their spouse but a third of those spouses have no official status.

This is not ideal for the person in question as he or she gains no personal rights from their work: no share in the firm, no right to unemployment benefit, and no right to a pension etc.

As such, the new PACTE business law which is now going through parliament includes rules obliging owners to declare work done by their spouse or civil partner.

There are three possible statuses: conjoint collaborateur, conjoint salarié or associé.

The latter involves being a partner in the business and is only possible if it is set up as a company (rather than run as a sole trader business, such as one under the simple micro-entreprise system).

As for the others, a conjoint collaborateur is not paid for their work but they do benefit from health and maternity rights as the business owner’s dependant, and they pay into the same retirement regime towards pension rights.

However, they have no right to unemployment benefit if the business is wound up.

The conjoint salarié is, as it sounds, an employee, with the usual benefits that implies: they should be paid a salary of at least the minimum wage, they pay towards their own healthcare and pension and may, if necessary, obtain unemployment benefit, as long as they did not have a “decision-making” role with regard to the future of the business.

To clarify the conjoint salarié’s role, they should have a work contract and it is possible to register it with the tax service, which establishes proof of the contract’s start date.

In the case of spouses who are business partners, each has a right to profits from the business and each will be registered with the sécurité sociale indépendants for health and pension rights. 

Resident or second-home owner in France?
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