France – The “Macron” decrees on labour

Time to read: 7 min

France has for long been seen as a “social trap” by foreign investors… and it was often right.

The last few months have been dedicated to change this, in order to secure more employers, and allow more flexibility (in a negotiated framework) within companies.

On the 14th of February, the Senate has ratified what we call the “Macron” decrees that were issued at the end of September.

Below, a summary of what you need to know in 8 points.

1 – More flexibility in the motivation of dismissal letters

In France, dismissals must be justified. However, to reduce litigation and convictions of employers linked to lack of motives, it is now provided that:

  • Before referring to the Judge, employees might ask their employer for more explanation on what the allegations against them are, this to defuse conflict and promote dialogue.
  • If the employee did not ask for more explanations, the dismissal will not be judged unjustified for a lack of motives but only an irregularity of procedure might be retained (giving an entitlement to a maximum of 1 month salary as damages).
  • The employer might, if asked by their employee or at their own initiative, explain more into details the reason for termination, and this explanation will be taken into account by the Judges in case of litigation (when before, only what was written in the dismissal letter was taken into account without any possibility to give any further explanation).

The time-limit to challenge a dismissal is moreover reduced to 12 months (vs 2 years before) with an aim to rapidly secure the situations.

2 – Some changes in redundancies

At last, a glimmer of hope for employers belonging to an International group: the perimeter of appreciation of the economic reason which is required to make someone redundant, is now restrained to the national territory (except for fraud).

It means that an investor abroad who has financial difficulties on the French territory can, from now on, decide redundancies even if the other companies of the group abroad make profit.

Also, the research for redeployment shall take place within the French territory only and not in the whole group outside France.

3 – Damages scales

In matter of dismissal without any substantial grounds, a compulsory statutory scale is included in the Labour Code.

These new provisions are applicable to any dismissal issued after the 25th of September.

The maximum allowance is set at 20 months of gross salary for someone having 29 years’ seniority or more when being unfairly dismissed.

4 – Termination Indemnity

For all the terminations decided by an employer or for any agreed termination concluded after the 25th of September, the legal indemnity is now:

  • 1/4 of gross salary per year of presence for the 10 first years of seniority,
  • 1/3 of gross salary per year of presence for more than 10 years of seniority.

Moreover, the minimum seniority required is lowered, from one year to eight months continuous seniority to be able to benefit from this legal termination indemnity.

5 – Home Working

Companies who want to organize work from home (other than occasional) must implement it by a collective agreement or a company charter, specifying the eligible positions to this work mode, the working conditions, etc. If telework is refused, the employer shall explain the reasons for refusal to the employee.

On the contrary, for an occasional work from home, only the parties’ agreement is required without any formality or financial compensation.

6 – Merger of staff representatives in a unique Social and Economic Committee

Until recently, French companies have had Workers’ Representatives (“Délégués du Personnel”), Work’s Council (“Comité d’Entreprise”), Health, Safety and Working Conditions Committee (“CHSCT”) depending on the company’s workforce. Sometimes, these Committees were linked one to another or sometimes just merged.

This implied a complexity and often an obligation for the employer to officially hold several meetings on the same topic with different representatives (no matter if those meetings had the same elected members or not).

Now this is simplified: as soon as companies reach the number of 11 employees on their payroll, they have to implement an Economic and Social Committee (CSE). Its missions and resources are more or less important depending if the threshold of 50 employees is reached or not.

A Company’s agreement might as well enforce the fact that this CSE will also have the power to negotiate agreements (instead of the Unions) and will from now on be named Company Council (inspired by Germany).

7 – Larger possibilities to negotiate Company’s own rules, even if these rules do not comply with Branch Agreements

The announced revolution took place: the Company’s Collective Agreements now prevail over the branch agreements as a general rule (even if some clauses of the Branch Collective Agreements should still be respected).

A brand new occasion for employers to grab this opportunity and to adapt and customize the rules of the game for the needs of their company and their employees, renegotiating for example bonuses (seniority bonus, vacation bonus, …) or some aspects of working time.

Specific working conditions can also be negotiated if they are necessary to the well-functioning of the company.

8 – Opening of company‘s negotiations to the small companies without staff representatives

In companies with less than 50 employees, possibilities to negotiate are now on larger, to allow the managers to negotiate with staff representatives or with employees if there is no Union in the company.

An agreement can be concluded directly with the employees who approve the agreement draft by referendum, especially, in companies with less than 20 employees and without any staff representatives.

Wide possibilities are therefore now open to companies in France, no matter the size, the absence of unions, or the branch of activity, as long as they are willing to negotiate with their personnel.

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