France: Government launches major reform of the labour market

On 4 November, the government presented the outline of its bill, 'A labour code for the 21st century', aimed at reforming the French labour code.

The government plans to begin its consultation with the social partners and has assigned the task of drawing up the 'fundamental principles of labour law' to a high-level reflection group (comité des sages) composed of judges and academics. The group will present its report on 25 January. The labour reform bill will be presented as early as March 2016, with a view to being adopted by parliament before the summer. The code is likely to comprise three levels:

  1. 'Public social order' provisions, to which no exemption can be agreed;
  2. Topics open to negotiation in industry or company-level collective agreements;
  3. Provisions applicable in the absence of an industry or company-level agreement.

The aim is to enhance the scope for collective bargaining but without undermining the hierarchy of norms. Once the law has been passed, a commission will be asked to redraft the code with a view to its taking effect in the first half of 2018. In the meantime, the section of the code devoted to working hours, rest time and leave arrangements will be rewritten during the course of drafting the bill (see press release and press kit). Some unions have given positive feedback to the aim of modernising the Labour code (CFDT, CFTC, Unsa, CFE-CGC) while others are strongly opposed to it (CGT, FO).

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