As part of candidate Emmanuel Macron’s program during the Presidential elections campaign, a substantial reform of the French employment Code was promised. After his election as President, French commentators anticipated new changes would be implemented quickly, given Emmanuel Macron’s indications that he wished to go ahead as soon as possible, without too much debate before the French Parliament.

This reform is now on track, and will be implemented through a specific procedure:

  • an “enabling” law (loi d’habilitation) shall be voted by Parliament to set a specific framework for the reform;
  • ordinances (ordonnances) will be published after being agreed by the Government; and
  • a “ratification” law (loi de ratification) shall then be voted by Parliament to ratify the decrees made by the Government.

The enabling law was definitely voted on August 2nd, 2017 but it has not been published yet as it is currently subject to a claim before the French constitutional court. The Government announced that after publication of the law, the ordinances will be published around September 2017.

Based on the content of the enabling law and on the various announcements made by the Government, the expected reform should focus on the following topics.

More flexibility through negotiation

The link between collective agreements entered into at sector-wide level and collective agreements entered into at company level should be redefined, in particular to authorise employers and unions to negotiate company-level collective agreements which could take over from industry-level collective agreement regarding certain topics.

Staff representation

The announced reform also proposes to extend the possibilities to merge the three main employee representative bodies into a single staff representation body covering the attributions of the works council, the staff delegates and the health and safety committees. In principle, all companies should benefit from this possibility of merging staff representation.

Termination of contracts

It is also proposed to redefine the scope of assessment of the economic difficulties justifying redundancies (group, company, etc.) and to specify the scope and extent of the research for alternative reclassification and of the selection criteria for dismissals. Termination of employment contracts would also be made more secure for employers by various new measures: (i) the creation of a “pro-forma” dismissal letter, (ii) the establishment of a mandatory scale of damages to be granted by courts in case of unfair dismissal, and (iii) the setting of uniform time-limits for employees’ claims.

Adaptation of rules relating to employment contracts

The Government also wishes to adapt the rules regarding homeworking, night work, fixed term contracts, and lending of employees.

The Summer season will be busy for the French Government!

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