The French authorities have been very prolific in the area of effecting reforms to employment law, and 2019 will not be an exception to this general rule (although perhaps less so than was the case in 2017 and 2018).
First, in 2019, a certain number of reforms promulgated in 2017 and 2018 will either come into force become fully effective:
- As of January 2019, all companies have become subject to the requirement to withhold income tax from salaries paid to their employees. This change had been under discussion for a fairly long time and was initially planned to enter into effect in 2018 but then postponed. However, it is now fully applicable. The implementation of this new system has been quite challenging for French employers;
- 31 December 2019 will be the final date for the elections of the social and economic committee (“comité social et économique”). This new employee representative body will replace, in companies employing at least 11 employees, the staff delegates, and in companies employing at least 50 employees, the staff delegates, the works council and the health and safety committee. A certain number of companies (especially large companies) have already elected their social and economic committee, but the majority of French companies have not yet made the switch;
- New requirements relating to professional equality and prohibitions of sexual harassment and sexist behavior were created by a law published in September 2018. Companies employing at least 250 employees are now required to publish indicators related to the gap between remuneration of men and women, and actions implemented for the purpose of removing such gaps. In the past, companies were held to a “best efforts” standard in implementing such policies, while the spirit of the new law is to place the companies under an actual obligation of performance. Penalties may apply to companies achieving insufficient results, following a period of three years. Moreover, such companies employing at least 250 employees are now required to appoint a referent responsible for orienting, informing and accompanying employees in matters of sexual harassment and sexist behavior. The social and economic committee will also need to appoint their own referent (chosen amongst the members of the committee).
In addition, a number of other areas may be subject to change in 2019 in accordance with announcements made by the French Government:
- The issue of health at work and quality of working life will be negotiated between employers and employees’ unions, and a draft law will be published and debated before the National Assembly and the Senate. Employees’ unions also wish to reform the regulations aiming at preventing occupational risks and the main five employees’ unions in France have published a press release jointly signed by them and insisting on the need to extend the negotiations on such aspects;
- The Government also recently published a press release regarding the fight against unemployment. The renegotiation of rules governing the French unemployment fund will be one of the biggest challenge of the French government in 2019. Such renegotiation will probably be finalized before the end of Q3 2019.