Living and working in France

18 November 2019

Data source: Eurostat

Eurofound provides research, data and analysis on a wide range of social and work-related topics. This information is largely comparative, but also offers country-specific information for each of the 28 EU Member States. Most information is available in English but some has been translated to facilitate access at national level.

Eurofound strives to strengthen the ongoing link between its own work and national policy debates and priorities related to quality of life and work. Increasingly important in this context is the Europe 2020 growth and jobs strategy launched in 2010, which has five headline targets, covering employment through to social inclusion and poverty reduction. The strategy is implemented in the context of the European Semester process – the EU's annual cycle of economic policy guidance and surveillance – which ensures that Member States keep their budgetary and economic policies in line with their EU commitments through, in part, National Reform Programmes. These programmes form the basis for the European Commission's proposals for country-specific recommendations (CSRs) for each Member State.

European Commission: The European Semester
European Commission: The European Semester - EU country-specific recommendations
European Commission: European Semester documents for France

2015 Eurofound EWCS survey results in France: 35% of people consider their job affecting their health negatively

The country page gives access to Eurofound's most recent survey data and news, directly related to France:



Read the highlights for 2018 for working life in France

Survey results

Ability to choose or change
methods of work

Data source: 2015 EWCS survey

Possibility to accumulate overtime
for days off

Data source: 2013 ECS survey

Recent developments

Eurofound contacts in France

Correspondents in France

Correspondents report on topics related to developments in the country's working life and inform Eurofound’s pan-European comparative analysis. Read more

Consortium IR Share and Association Travail, Emploi, Europe, Société (ASTREES)

Eurofound Management Board members from France

Eurofound's Management Board is made up of representatives of the social partners and national governments of all Member States, European Commission representatives and an independent expert appointed by the European Parliament. Read more

Régis Bac Ministry of Labour, Employment, Vocational Training and Social Dialogue

Sébastien Darrigrand European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and of Enterprises of General Economic Interest (CEEP)

Pierre-Gaël Loreal FNCB CFDT French Democratic Federation of Labour 

Related content

Other country-specific information may be available in certain areas on demand. Please feel free to contact your country contact at Eurofound for this or any other information at information@eurofound.europa.eu

Living in France

Quality of life

Quality of life

Many of the EQLS indicators about the quality of life in France have remained relatively stable in recent years. For instance, life satisfaction stayed at 7.2 in both 2011 and 2016, similar to the EU28 average of 7.1 (on a scale from 1 to 10). However, the share of respondents reporting difficulties in making ends meet peaked in 2011 at 49%, subsequently decreasing to reach 43% in 2016. However, this is still higher than the pre-crisis figure of 37%.

Overall, 59% of respondents in France are optimistic about their own future, and 42% are optimistic about their children’s or grandchildren’s future. Both of the figures are lower than their respective EU28 averages (own future at 64%; children’s future at 57%).

  2003200720112016
Life satisfactionMean (1-10)7.07.37.27.2
Taking all things together on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy would you say you are?Mean (1-10)7.47.87.47.5
Optimism about own futureAgree & strongly agree---59%
Optimism about children’s or grandchildren’s futureAgree & strongly agree---42%
Take part in sports or physical exerciseAt least once a week--49%43%
In general, how is your health?Very good-23%24%33%
WHO-5 mental wellbeing indexMean (1-100)-626166
Making ends meetWith some difficulty, difficulty, and great difficulty38%37%49%43%
I feel I am free to decide how to live my lifeStrongly agree--31%23%
I find it difficult to deal with important problems that come up in my lifeAgree & strongly agree---21%
When things go wrong in my life, it generally takes me a long time to get back to normalAgree & strongly agree---29%

Work-life balance

Work-life balance

Self-reported work–life balance problems have increased in France since 2007, following a trend observed also in many other EU Member States. In 2007, 47% of respondents in France reported being ‘too tired from work to do some of the household jobs which need to be done’ at least several times a month. In 2011, the same indicator had increased to 56% and continued to increase, reaching 64% in 2016. This is also slightly higher than the respective EU28 average of 59% in 2016. There are no large gender differences in perceived work–life balance problems in France.

  2003200720112016
(At least several times a month)   
I have come home from work too tired to do some of the household jobs which need to be doneTotal48%47%56%64%
Men49%49%53%62%
Women46%44%59%67%
      
It has been difficult for me to fulfil my family responsibilities because of the amount of time I spend on the jobTotal22%17%26%36%
Men26%18%25%36%
Women17%16%27%37%
      
I have found it difficult to concentrate at work because of my family responsibilitiesTotal10%7%12%20%
Men9%6%10%19%
Women10%8%14%21%

Quality of society

Quality of society

Many of the indicators about the quality of society have remained fairly stable in France in recent years. However, perceived tensions between poor and rich people have decreased after a peak in 2011. In 2011, 55% of respondents in France reported ‘a lot of’ tension between poor and rich people, and in 2016 this share had decreased to 39%. However, this figure is still higher than the respective EU28 average of 29%.

Perceived tensions between different racial and ethnic groups have remained fairly stable in recent years in France. In 2016, 51% of respondents reported ‘a lot of’ this type of tension. However, this is significantly higher than the EU28 average of 41%.

  2003200720112016
Social exclusion indexMean (1-5)-2.32.22.2
Trust in peopleMean (1-10)5.95.55.35.4
Involvement in unpaid voluntary work% "at least once a month"--18%15%
Tension between poor and rich people% reporting 'a lot of tension'46%43%55%39%
Tension between different racial and ethnic groups% reporting 'a lot of tension'64%53%50%51%
I feel safe when I walk alone after darkStrongly agree- -46%

Quality of public services

Quality of public services

Quality ratings for seven public services

Note: scale of 1-10, Source: EQLS 2016.

Many of the quality ratings for public services have improved in France. For instance, the rating for the state pension system increased from 5.0 in 2011 to 5.5 in 2016 (on a scale from 1 to 10), which is also higher than the respective EU28 average of 5.0. The quality rating for social housing increased as well, from 5.6 in 2011 to 6.4 in 2016, now higher than the EU28 average of 5.6. Other notable increases since 2011 can be observed in the quality rating for the education system (from 6.1 in 2011 to 6.7 in 2016) and health services (from 6.9 to 7.4 during the same time period). 

  2003200720112016
Health servicesMean (1-10)7.17.16.97.4
Education systemMean (1-10)6.26.56.16.7
Public transportMean (1-10)6.16.76.66.8
Childcare servicesMean (1-10)-6.36.36.5
Long-term care servicesMean (1-10)--6.56.9
Social housingMean (1-10)--5.66.4
State pension systemMean (1-10)5.55.25.05.6

Working life in France

About

  • Author: Sebastian Schulze-Marmeling, Christophe Teissier, Hélène Tissandier and Frédéric Turlan
  • Institution: ASTREES, IR Share and Université Paris-Dauphine
  • Published on: Monday, November 18, 2019

This profile describes the key characteristics of working life in France. It aims to complement other EurWORK research by providing the relevant background information on the structures, institutions and relevant regulations regarding working life. This includes indicators, data and regulatory systems on the following aspects: actors and institutions, collective and individual employment relations, health and well-being, pay, working time, skills and training, and equality and non-discrimination at work. The profiles are updated annually.

 

Highlights – Working life in 2018

Highlights – Working life in 2018

Highlights updated on: 14 March 2019
For more information, see working paper:
France: Developments in working life 2018

In April, the government in place since President Macron’s May 2017 election completed the second stage of its social model renovation in an economic context that was marked by a drop in growth from 2.4% in 2017 to 1.7% forecast for 2018. A reform was passed on 5 September that covered a vast field, from vocational training and apprenticeships to unemployment insurance managed by the social partners.

The government faced its first large-scale social dispute in the form of a 36-day strike triggered by the reform of the public railway company SNCF, the aim of which was to prepare SNCF for passenger rail competition while also removing ‘special status’ for new workers, which included jobs for life. The law was finally adopted in June. The SNCF conflict confirmed that strikes against government reforms were no longer mobilising workers on a massive scale and that unions were getting little or nothing from the government. Even when they engaged in social dialogue, as the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT) and National Federation of Independent Unions (UNSA) did during this reform, the results obtained were very poor.

For trade unions, the worst-case scenario materialised in the form of the social movement of the ‘yellow vests’, who obtained much more from the government than they had. This protest movement began on social networks in October in response to the rise in petrol prices. On 17 November, more than 280,000 demonstrators blocked roads all over France and demonstrations, occurring every Saturday, were marked by scenes of violence. In addition to claims related to fuel prices, the ‘yellow vests’ called for social justice measures. These claims were initially rejected by the government, but after riots broke out, President Macron announced a set of measures on 10 December for an estimated amount of €10 billion.

The leader of the CFDT proposed a summit to tackle both ecological transition and social fairness issues. This proposal was withdrawn by the government, which decided instead to launch three months of debate with French citizens. The trade unions were out of the picture. It was not the first time in the history of social conflicts that such a situation had arisen: there were two long social disputes in the 1980s led by ‘coordination’ that escaped the unions. Yet in contrast to the ‘yellow vests’, who lack any kind of leader or structure, the ‘coordination’ had had interlocutors to negotiate with the government. The exclusion of social partners as intermediaries leads to confrontation between the government and sections of the population and direct conflict can ensue in the absence of institutions who can channel demands and organise negotiations.

With regard to working conditions, the government adopted a measure aimed at reducing the wage gap between women and men based in the first instance on an employer's self-assessment. If the score was lower than a fixed threshold, companies would be obliged to implement corrective measures or risk a penalty of up to 1% of the pay roll. A further development was a new law allowing those who care for people with disabilities or a loss of autonomy to benefit from leave not taken by other employees of their company.

Key figures

Key figures

Comparative figures on working life in France

 

2012

2018

% (point) change 2012-2018

 

France

EU28

France

EU28

France

EU28

GDP per capita

31,200

25,700

32,800

28,200

5.13%

9.73%

Unemployment rate – total

9.8

10.5

9.1

6.8

-0.70

-3.70

Unemployment rate – women

9.8

10.6

9.1

7.1

-0.70

-3.50

Unemployment rate – men

9.8

10.4

9.0

6.6

-0.80

-3.80

Unemployment rate – youth

24.4

23.3

20.7

15.2

-3.70

-8.10

Employment rate – total

70.3

71.7

71.9

73.7

1.60

2.00

Employment rate – women

n.a.

65.5

68.2

68.3

n.a.

2.80

Employment rate – men

n.a.

77.8

75.8

79.2

n.a.

1.40

Employment rate – youth

n.a.

42.4

37.7

41.7

n.a.

-0.70

Source: Eurostat - Real GDP per capita (chain linked volumes [2010], in EUR) and percentage change 2012-2018 (both based on tsdec100). Unemployment rate by sex and age - annual average, % [une_rt_a]; Employment rate by sex and age - annual average, % [lfsi_emp_a].

Background

Background

Economic and labour market context

After expanding at 2.2% in 2017, GDP growth decreased to 1.5 % in 2018 and is forecast to expand by 1.3 % in 2019 and by 1.5 % in 2020. The GDP growth rate would still remain above its potential, which is gradually recovering after having dropped from an average of 1.8% from 2000 to 2008 to just 1.0% in 2009. The employment rate continued to increase and reached 71.6 % in the third quarter of 2018. The unemployment rate continued to decline gradually, reaching 8.8% at the fourth quarter 2018. Unemployment in 2018 at 9.1% remains well above the EU average of 6.8%.

More information on:

Legal context

The whole labour legislation, including regulations regarding employers’ representation, trade union representation and collective bargaining, is integrated into the Labour Code.
Since 2015, the Labour Code has changed significantly, the paramount reform being the introduction of the law concerning employment and social dialogue. The aim of law 2015-994 of 17 August 2015 is to simplify the organisation of information and consultation bodies and to ensure the representation of employees working in companies with fewer than 11 workers. A major labour law reform occurred in November 2015. The reform (Law 2016-1088 of 8 August 2016) contains new and important rules on working time which give precedence to company-level agreements over branch-level ones.

Furthermore, the government adopted a major labour law reform through five ordinances enacted on 22 September 2017. This was the first step in a massive reform of the labour market. The second step arrived in August 2018, with the law 2018-771 on ‘Freedom to choose one’s professional future’ that covers a vast field, from vocational training and apprenticeships to gender equality and the posting of workers. It also paves the way for the reform of the unemployment insurance system.

Industrial relations context

French industrial relations have always been tense and dominated by the strong involvement of the state and the law. In 1884, the law recognised the freedom of association and the first laws related to collective bargaining were approved in 1919. A first step towards their generalisation and extended coverage was achieved by law in 1950, establishing the sectorial level as the main one for bargaining. In 1971, collective bargaining at ‘inter- sectoral (cross-industry) level was also established. Finally, the ‘Auroux laws’ of 1982 developed collective bargaining at workplace or company level, also establishing an annual obligation to negotiate wages and working time.

There is a traditional lack of mutual recognition between the social partners that could explain the interventionist role of the state in industrial and social matters, but many changes have taken place in the last 30 years.

In recent decades, a decentralised bargaining system has been developed, giving companies more autonomy from both labour legislation and national/sectoral collective agreements.

Additionally, two laws introduced in the 2000s have been significant, leading to profound upheavals in the French industrial relations system: a reform of collective bargaining in 2004 and a reform of the principles governing the representativeness of trade unions in 2008 . In 2015, a new reform introduced changes for social dialogue in the workplace. And in 2016, an important labour law reform increased the decentralisation of collective bargaining, giving more weight to social dialogue at company-level. Decentralisation has also been strengthened by the labour law reform of 2017.

Actors and institutions

Actors and institutions

Trade unions, employers’ organisations and public institutions play a key role in the governance of the employment relationship, working conditions and industrial relations structures. They are interlocking parts in a multilevel system of governance that includes the European, national, sectoral, regional (provincial or local) and company levels. This section looks into the main actors and institutions and their role in France.

Public authorities involved in regulating working life

The state continues to play a crucial role in French industrial relations. The system is highly regulated, the Government sets the minimum wage and the Ministry of Labour extends virtually all collective agreements, and an increasing number of issues are subject to compulsory negotiations at sectoral or company level.

In recent years, however, a series of laws has been approved delegating the regulation of certain issues to social partners, typically at company level. For instance, there are obligations, sometimes on an annual or multi-annual basis, to negotiate on wages; the organisation of working time; gender equality; on professional insertion of disabled workers; financial participation and employment of older workers.

Furthermore, the labour law reform of August 2016 heralds a wide-ranging reform that aims to give company-level agreements precedence over those at sectoral level or the law itself if the latter so provides. This reversal is already provided for in the bill on an experimental basis in connection with the legislation on working time. It thereby establishes a decentralisation of collective bargaining.

Finally, through the framework of the labour law reform of 2017, decentralisation has been strengthened. This means that for a large number of issues, company-level agreements prevail; and the role of social partners in the management of the unemployment scheme and the vocational training system has been reduced, as the role of the state expands.

Individual employment rights are enforced by the French labour inspectorate (Inspection du travail) and the employment tribunal system ( conseils de prud’hommes). Cases are presented in front of a panel of four lay judges composed of two representatives from both the unions and the employers. A substantial reform of the employment tribunal system entered into force in 2015.

Representativeness

Since 1966, five trade union confederations have been deemed representative at national level. Prior to 2008, each trade union at a local or sectoral level that was affiliated to one of these confederations was also considered to be representative (‘presumption of representativeness’). These principles were modified in 2008 with the law on ‘social democracy and working time reform’. Regardless of affiliation, representativeness now depends primarily on the ‘electoral audience’: therefore, to be representative and able to participate in negotiations, a trade union must win at least 10% of the votes at workplace level, the ratio being 8% at sectoral industry level.

In terms of national cross-sectoral representativeness in the private sector, the second round of workplace elections in 2017 has resulted in granting the status to all five unions that had been considered representative previously: the General Confederation of Labour ( Confédération générale du travail, CGT); the French Democratic Federation of Labour ( Confédération française démocratique du travail, CFDT); the General Confederation of Labour – Force ouvrière ( Confédération générale du travail – Force Ouvrière, CGT-FO); the French Christian Workers’ Confederation ( Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens, CFTC); and the French Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff – General Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff ( Confédération française de l’encadrement – confédération générale des cadres , CFE-CGC)

In July 2017, it was also the first time that the representativeness of employer organisations was measured. The representativeness of the three main employers’ organisations was recognised.

Trade unions

About trade union representation

The term ‘paradox of French unionism’ (Wolff, 2008) describes the combination of very low union density but strong presence at workplace level (see below). Trade union density in France is among the lowest in Europe. According to the last assessment of the union density rate, it decreased to 11% in 2016, for the whole territory, in both the private and public sectors, compared with 11.2% in 2015. This proportion has been relatively stable over the past 10 years. Statistics show a significant disparity between the public service sector with a rate of 19.1% and the private sector (8.4%) and unions are also particularly strong among permanent full-time employees.

Observers bring forward a range of explanations, two of which are particularly prominent. First, French unions are weak in terms of membership, but prominently present at the workplace and union membership is often closely linked to union engagement. Elsewhere almost one French union member in five is an active employee representative. Second, virtually all collective agreements are extended to the entire sector leading to a very high coverage rate of above 90% and this invites employees to ‘free ride’, enjoying the benefits negotiated by unions without having to commit to union membership.

Trade union membership and trade union density

 

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Source

Trade union density in terms of active employees

7.7

7.7

7.7

n.a.

n.a.

OECD/Visser (2014), based on administrative data from the main French union confederations

Trade union membership in 1,000s

1,823

1,830

1,835

n.a.

n.a.

OECD/Visser (2014), based on administrative data from the main French union confederations

Trade union density in terms of active employees

10.8%

n.d.

n.d.

11.4%

11%.

DARES (2016) ’La syndicalisation en France’, May 2016 /DARES (2018)

Main trade union confederations and federations

Trade unions are national organisations. France has five trade unions recognised as representative at a national level. They are mentioned in the table below. All membership figures are self-reported and are, for some organisations, likely to be overestimated.

Other unions have significant influence but do not yet have representative status at national cross-sectoral level. However, they might well conduct collective bargaining at company level or, if they meet the sectoral threshold in the latest elections, sectoral level.

Main trade union confederations and federations

Long name

Abbreviation

Members

Involved in collective bargaining

Confédération générale du travail / General Confederation of Labour

CGT

671,488 (2015)

Yes

Confédération Française démocratique du Travail / French Democratic Confederation of Labour

CFDT

623,802 (2018)

Yes

Confédération Générale du Travail-Force Ouvrière / General Confederation of Labour – Force ouvrière

CGT-FO

500,000 (2018)

Yes

Confédération des Travailleurs Chrétiens / French Christian Workers’ Confederation

CFTC

140,000 (2018)

Yes

Confédération Générale de l’Encadrement-Confédération générale des cadre / French Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff – General Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff

CFE-CGC

170,000 (2018)

Yes

For the second time since the reform of trade union representativeness in 2008 (see above), the popularity of private sector trade unions at the national, inter-professional and sector levels has been evaluated by their share of worker’s votes. On 31 March 2017, the Ministry of Labour published data based on the results of workplace elections. However, the participation rate was only 42.76%.

The five main trade union confederations with membership across the entire economy maintained their representativeness. The CFDT had 30.32% of the votes, slightly ahead of the CGT with 28.57%. The CGT-FO came third, with 17.93% of the votes, followed by CFE-CGC at 12.27% and the CFTC at 9.49%. The recently created trade unions UNSA (Union of autonomous trade unions) and SUD (Solidarity, Unity, Democracy), which tends to take a rather radical position, both failed to reach the 8% threshold at the national level, with a score of 5.35% and 3.46% respectively.

According to the second assessment of trade unions’ representativeness in the public sector based on the results of the work place elections held from 29 November to 6 December 2018, the CGT remains the leading trade union organisation in the civil service as a whole (state, local government and hospital) with 21.8% of the votes (a drop of 1.3 percentage points compared to 2014), followed by the CFDT (19%, a drop of 0.3 points). But taking into account the results of workplace elections in the private sector, the CFDT has become, in 2018, the leading French trade union, in the public and private sectors combined.

The reform of trade union representativeness by the Act of 20 August 2008 led to the profound modification of the French trade union landscape at sectoral and company level. Some organisations, such as the CFTC and CFE-CGC, have lost their representativeness in a significant number of branches. Conversely, other organisations such as UNSA could see recognition of their representativeness at sectoral level.

Employers’ organisations

About employers’ representation

Membership of employer organisations is voluntary in France, with organisations competing to attract members. Most of the country’s employers are members of at least one employer organisation. In contrast with the trade unions, employers’ organisational density was considered to be quite high (Traxler, 2004). According a study published by DARES (2019), it appears that on average one in four companies in France is a member of an employers' organisation and that two out of three employees work in these companies. Employee coverage rates are high in sectors where employment is highly concentrated around a few large companies (chemical and pharmaceutical industries, glass, construction, public works and banking). This indicates that previous estimates, which added the total membership figures of all confederations, strongly overestimated the representativeness of employers’ associations in France. The reason for this is that many companies are members of several organisations.

Employers’ organisations – membership and density

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

Source

Employers’ organisation density in terms of active employees

 

75%

75%

75%

Visser (2014), estimations for 2010

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments (*)

 

n.a.

40%

n.a.

European Company Survey 2013

Employers’ organisation membership in private sector establishments

44%

n.a.

n.a.

n.a.

Pignoni (2015b)

(*) Percentage of employees working in an establishment that is a member of any employer organisation that is involved in collective bargaining.

Main employers’ organisations

The Movement of French Enterprises (MEDEF) was established in 1998 to succeed the former National Council of French Employers ( Conseil national du patronat français, CNPF). The MEDEF is a multi-layered confederation of sectoral and territorial organisations bringing together companies with more than 10 employees. It organises 76 federations that cover some 600 associations whose members are companies working in the same sector and 13 regional organisations and over 100 departmental or local organisations. It seeks to cover all companies, whatever their size, in all geographic and professional sectors. Its members cover about 70% of the total workforce within the private sector.

On 6 January 2017, the General Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises (CGPME) changed its name to theConfederation of small and medium-sized employers’ organisations ( Confédération des petites et moyennes entreprises, CPME). CPME is organised into four national sections: commerce, services, industry and crafts. It organises 117 territorial unions and about 200 federation or association of trades. Its members cover about 34.5% of the total workforce within the private sector.

On 17 November 2016, the Craftwork Employers’ Association (UPA) merged with the National Union of Liberal Professions (UNAPL) to create a new body, theUnion of local businesses ( Union des entreprises de proximité / U2P). It organises 119 federations or associations of trades and 110 regional or local organisations. Its members cover about 4% of the total workforce within the private sector.

There is also an employers’ organisation representing the not-for-profit sector, the Union of employers of the social economy ( Union des employeurs de l’économie sociale et solidaire) UDES, formerly USGERES) that represents 80% of the sector’s employers.

Main employers’ organisations and confederations

Long name

Abbreviation

Members

Year

Involved in collective bargaining (*)

Mouvement des Entreprises de France / Movement of French Entreprises

MEDEF

123,632

2017

Yes

Confédération des Petites et Moyennes Entreprises / Confederation of small and medium-sized employers’ organisations, representing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

CPME

144,982

2017

Yes

Union des entreprises de proximité (U2P) / Union of local businesses, representing liberal profession and craft workers

U2P

150,605

2017

Yes

Notes: (*) at national interprofessional level

The reform of the employers’ organisation representativeness was adopted in the framework of the reform of vocational training in March 2014 ( Loi n° 2014-288 du 5 mars 2014 relative à la formation professionnelle, à l'emploi et à la démocratie sociale ). According to a decree of 13 June 2015, to be representative at sectoral level, employers' organisations have to include a number of member companies representing at least 8% of all companies adhering to employers' organisations in the corresponding branch (member companies’ audience) or 8% of employees employed by the same organisation at the national, interprofessional or professional level (employees’ employed audience). The decree gives practical details on how to calculate the threshold of 8%. It also explains how employers’ organisations can oppose a collective agreement if they represent affiliated companies that employ more than 50% of the workforce of companies affiliated to employers’ organisations within the sector.

Social partners continue to be heavily involved in the management of certain social security provisions, such as public health insurance, unemployment benefits and social welfare boards (paritarisme). The social partners play also a central role in the supplementary private health insurance system (mutuelles, institutions de prévoyance) and pension plans. Furthermore, they are involved in the system of vocational training. The national system of policy concertation is complemented by a tripartite social dialogue in development at the regional or local level. Law 2007-130 of 31 January 2007 on modernisation of social dialogue makes it obligatory to consult national-level representatives of trade unions and employers’ organisations beforehand when proposing reforms in the field of industrial relations, employment and vocational training. The government should provide these organisations with a policy document presenting the ‘diagnoses, objectives and principal options’ of the proposed reform. The social partners will then be able to indicate whether they intend to embark on negotiations and how much time they need to reach an agreement. This procedure will not apply in ‘emergency situations’; in such cases, the government would have to justify its decision, which can be legally challenged.

When drawing up a draft law following the consultation procedure, the government is not obliged to adopt the content of a collective agreement as it is. However, depending on the issue at hand, it must submit the bill to:

  • the National Collective Bargaining Commission (Commission nationale de la négociation collective, CNNC) for reforms concerning industrial relations;
  • the National Employment Committee (Conseil national de l’emploi, CNE) for reforms in relation to employment;
  • the National Council for Lifelong Vocational Training (Conseil national de la formation professionnelle tout au long de la vie, CNFPTLV) for reforms with regard to training.

The social partners that are represented in these bodies can assess whether or not the government’s proposals are in line with the relevant collective agreement and, if necessary, to give their opinion.

Main tripartite and bipartite bodies

Name

Type

Level

Issues covered

CESE

Tripartite plus

National

Economic policy, public health, finance

CNNC

Tripartite

National

Collective bargaining

CNE

Tripartite

National

Employment

CNFPTLV

Tripartite

National

Vocational training

Workplace-level employee representation

In France, employees are represented through trade unions and structures directly elected by all workers. Representation for workers has been obligatory since 1945 at all workplaces with more than 11 or 50 employees, depending on the structure. These bodies are largely regulated by law. Nevertheless, there is room for regulation through collective bargaining as the social partners can create information and consultation bodies through collective agreement, to improve information and consultation within the company. They may negotiate improvements in facilities for employee representatives such as more paid time off or more resources. Since the labour reform of 2017, the landscape of the workplace-level employee representation has considerably changed. This is due to the merger of the three main employees’ information and consultation bodies: the staff representatives (délégués du personnel); the works council (comité d’entreprise); and the Health, Safety and Working Conditions Committee (CHSCT), into one Social and Economic Committee (SEC). The CSE must be implemented in all companies concerned by 1 January 2020 at the latest.

Trade unions

Since 1968, trade union rights have been recognised by companies and trade unions have been entitled to appoint shop stewards ( délégués syndicaux, Labour Code, Articles L2143-1 to L2143-23), who have the power to negotiate and sign collective agreements at company level. The other worker representation bodies do not have this power if there is at least one shop steward. Since the reform of representativeness in 2008, unions not recognised as representative in an undertaking can appoint a ‘representative of the union’ ( représentant de la section syndicale, RSS, Labour Code, Articles L2142-1-1 to L2142-1-4) who has similar rights to an appointed shop steward except the right to negotiate collective agreements. According a majority collective agreement, shop stewards may transfer their collective bargaining power to the ESC who can then negotiate and form collective agreements.

Social and Economic Committee

The Social and Economic Committee (SEC) is a legal entity, and as a collegial body is composed of members elected by the employees, representatives of the company management and representatives nominated by the unions (Labour Code, article L2311-1 to L.2315-22). Members are elected by all workers in every private sector establishments with more than 10 employees. SEC will progressively replace the current elected bodies (comité d’entreprisedélégué du personnel and CHSCT, see table below) by 1 January 2020 at the latest.

The SEC can be formed either at company level or establishment level, when a central SEC will also be established. The SEC receives information from employers on issues such as the economic and social aspects of the company and new technology. The SEC will be consulted on the strategic orientation of the company. They also respond to formal consultations by employers on topics such as redundancies and vocational training (without formal negotiation power), and are responsible for managing social and cultural activities for which they have a budget, which is fixed by collective agreement. Otherwise, the SEC has a functioning budget equal to 0.2% of the company’s annual payroll, or 0.22% in companies with over 2,000 employees. The SEC will also take over the tasks of the former staff delegates (presenting individual and collective grievances to management and ensuring the implementation of legislation and collective agreements) and the role of the safety and working conditions committee.

In a group of companies, a group-level works council can be created ( comité de groupe, Labour Code, Articles L2331-1 to L2335-1), which enjoys similar rights to those of ordinary works councils. A company with a Europe-wide operation can create a European Works Council ( Comité d’entreprise européen, Labour Code, Articles L2341-1) which can be merged, according to the Labour Code, with the group-level works council, if employee representatives agree.

Since a law of 17 August 2015, bipartite regional committees ( commissions régionales paritaires interprofessionnelles) will be set up in the 13 French regions to offer the 4.6 million employees working in SMEs with less than 11 employees a coverage by an information and consultative body (Labour Code, Article L.2234-1). The role of the committee is: to provide legal information or advice to employees and employers; to discuss and adopt advises or statements about issues related to SMEs (professional training, employment, health and safety, forecast management of skills).

Technical committees

Information and consultation (I&C) bodies also exist in the public sector, but their organisation is different to that in the private sector. The main consultative bodies within the public services are the technical committees.

The reform of collective bargaining in the public sector brought about by the law of July 2011 alters the way trade unions’ representativeness is assessed in the public sector, in line with regulations already in place in the private sector since 2008. Since this legislation, workplace elections determine the extent to which trade unions are involved in negotiations, can sign agreements and hold seats on tripartite advisory bodies.

The technical committee has different competences depending on the civil service divisions it belongs to, whether national civil service, public hospitals or local government.

Regulation, composition and competences of the bodies

Regulation

Composition

Competences of the body

Involved in company level collective bargaining?

Threshold/rules when they need to be/can be set up

 

Trade union representation/Délégué syndical (DS)

Law

Trade union delegate(s)

Yes

50 employees

Works councils/Comité d’enterprise/comité d’établissement (CE)

(will not exist from 1 January 2020)

Law

Elected employee representatives, management representative

Under certain conditions and only if no trade union representation is present

50 employees

Staff delegates/Délégués sur personnel (DP)

(will not exist from 1 January 2020)

Law

Elected staff representative(s)

Under certain conditions and only if no trade union representation is present

11 employees

Single representation body/Délégation unique du personnel (DUP)

(will not exist from 1 January 2020)

Law

Members of works council, health and safety committee and staff representatives, management representative for some of its functions

Under certain conditions and only if no trade union representation is present

Possible for companies with fewer than 300 employees

Health and Safety Committee/Comité d'hygiène, de sécurité et des conditions de travail (CHSCT)

(will not more exist from 1 January 2020)

Law

Representatives elected by the works’ council or staff delegates, management representative

No

50 employees

Social and Economic Committee (SEC)
(From September 2017)

Law

Elected employees, representatives,
management and,
in companies with 50 employees
and more, trade union
representatives.

Under certain conditions if trade union representation is not present or if a majority collective agreement transfers the power of negotiation from trade union representative(s) to the SEC.

11 employees

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining

The central concern of employment relations is the collective governance of work and employment. This section looks into collective bargaining in France.

Bargaining system

Collective bargaining in France has been predominantly conducted at a sectoral level. Typically, central agreements are concluded between employers’ associations and unions at industry level. Subsequently, social partners frequently apply to the Ministry of Labour for an extension of most provisions of the agreement, which is granted in virtually all cases. Therefore, the coverage rate of collective bargaining is estimated to be above 90%. Decentralisation of sectoral bargaining started from the early 1980s (‘Auroux laws’), but the principle of favourability that forbids company agreements from providing less favourable provisions than higher-level agreements was maintained. This principle has been diluted through reforms in 2004, 2008 and 2013. With the labour law reform of 2016, the decentralisation of collective bargaining went a step further, as the law gives company-level agreements precedence over those at sectoral level or the law itself if the latter so provides. This reversal is already provided for, since 1 January 2017, in connection with the legislation on working time. Furthermore, the labour law reform of 2017 listed specific topics (such as minimum wage) where sectoral agreements will continue to be in effect. It also includes a limited list of topics where it will depend on the agreement if it takes precedence over company-level agreements or not. Sectoral agreements will apply for all other matters in the absence of company-level agreements. This means that, for a large number of issues, company-level agreements will now take precedence.

Wage bargaining coverage

Wage bargaining coverage is very high in France and the ECS figures seem to underestimate the real coverage. In reality, almost all employees are covered by sectoral national wage agreements. Latest national data are very outdated, but they show that coverage increased from 93.7% to 97.7% for employees in the private sector between 1997 and 2004. The survey, on which the figures are based (ACEMO), has been discontinued.

Collective wage bargaining coverage of employees from different sources

Level

% employees covered

Source

Comments

Any level

83%

2013 – ECS

 

Any level

92%

2010 – SES

 

Any levels

96–98%

Estimate national correspondent

… of all private sector employees

Sources: Eurofound, European Company Survey 2013 (ECS), private sector companies with establishments >10 employees (NACE B-S) – multiple answers possible; Eurostat, Structure of Earnings survey, companies >10 employees (NACE B-S), single answer: more than 50% of employees covered by such an agreement.

Bargaining levels

Working time is set by law, but its organisation is negotiated at company and sectoral level. As the legislator made negotiations at company level compulsory, it is the company level, where working time arrangements which differ from the statutory 35 hours week are mainly re-negotiated. Wages are negotiated mainly at sectoral level, but also frequently at company level because the legislation stipulates that employers (in a company with over 50 employees) have to launch wage negotiations each year. However, the minimum wage is fixed by law and has to be respected by sectoral or company-level agreements.

A restructuring of sectoral collective agreements ( conventions collectives de branche) has been underway since 2016, having been launched by the publication of a decree that sets out the restructuring procedure. The aim is to reduce, over a period of three years, the current number of 700 branches to around 200. The labour law reform of 2017 has accelerated this process with the goal of reaching one hundred branches and allowing the Minister of Labour to merge sectors starting in 10 August 2018, rather than 10 August 2019.

Levels of collective bargaining 2018

 

National level (intersectoral)

Sectoral level

Company level

 

Wages

Working time

Wages

Working time

Wages

Working time

Principal or dominant level

   

x

   

x

Important but not dominant level

       

x

 

Existing level

     

x

   

Articulation

The September 2017 labour law reform reduces the importance of sectoral agreements and gives company agreements a central place in the system of collective bargaining. Ordinance 2017-1385 lists specific topics (such as minimum wages) on which sectoral agreements will remain in effect. It also includes a limited list of topics where the specific agreement will determine whether or not it takes precedence over company-level agreements. Sectoral agreements will apply for all other matters in the absence of company-level agreements. This means that, for a large number of issues, company-level agreements will continue to be in effect.

Timing of the bargaining rounds

There is no clear trend, but wage bargaining activity peaks at the beginning and the end of the year, and in the months before the French summer holidays in August.

Coordination

The decentralisation of collective bargaining leads to a very weak coordination of wage bargaining. Company-level social partners have important autonomy to negotiate on wage evolution as only minimum rates are negotiated on the sectoral level. In many branches, negotiated minimum wages are still lower than the legal minimum wage that has to be respected. There is little horizontal coordination.

Extension mechanisms

Extension mechanisms are used extensively. This practice means declaring the terms of a collective agreement, negotiated between the representative organisations within a subsector (‘branche’), compulsory for all the employees and employers in that subsector. In order to extend a collective agreement, social partners have to ask the Labour ministry to make a ministerial order. A great number of national sectoral wage agreements are extended resulting in very high coverage rates.

Derogation mechanisms

New legislation on collective bargaining passed in 2008 allows for company agreements to depart from the principle of favourability, but explicitly excludes minimum wage levels negotiated at sectoral level. Recent changes have introduced the possibility for company agreements to provide less favourable pay levels in exchange for job security when the company faces economic difficulties. The 2016 labour law reforms extended the option of providing less favourable remuneration for overtime. For instance, the new regulation stipulates that a company-level agreement or, in cases where there is no such agreement, a branch-level agreement fixes the rate for hours worked beyond the legal maximum. However, this rate cannot be lower than the statutory additional payment of 10%. This means that social partners at a company level could agree an additional payment of 15%, even if the branch-level agreement provides for 20%.

The practice of including in collective agreement provisions with opening clauses or opt-out clauses is very rare. However, the labour law reform of 2017 allows for sectoral agreements to be adapted to the size of the company. For example, some of their stipulations may not cover small businesses.

Expiry of collective agreements

Sectoral wage agreements do usually not expire. Social partners negotiate annually at sectoral level. If no agreement can be reached, the previous agreement remains in place.

Peace clause

The concept of peace clause included in collective agreements is unknown in France as it could be considered to be a violation of the constitutional right to go on strike.

Other aspects of working life addressed in collective agreements

Apart from wages (which is the first topic of collective bargaining on company-level – 11,800 agreements in 2017, out of a total of 32,248), the other main issues are working time (8,114 agreements), employment, particularly the issue of retaining older workers in employment (3,132 agreements), and gender equality (3,817 agreements). This is also a consequence of legislation that obliges social partners to negotiate regularly on gender issues and employment of older workers. The commitment of the social partners to negotiate is due to the historic industrial relations environment, as companies are obliged to negotiate annually on a range of topics (on wages, working time, organisation of work, collective health insurance, financial participation etc) or on a multi- annual basis (gender equality, the employment of disabled workers). Commonly, the commitment is to negotiate but not to reach an agreement. However, on issues related to gender equality or older workers, the employer has to reach an agreement, or if the social partners fail to agree, to adopt a plan of action. The annual assessment of collective bargaining, launched by the Ministry of Labour, gives an overview of the main topics negotiated at branch and company levels.

Industrial action and disputes

Industrial action and disputes

Legal aspects

The right to strike applies to all employees whether or not there is a trade union involved. Although not all and not even the majority of the employees must be involved, an individual can only go on strike when their action is in relation to national strike action.

In order to be considered as a strike, the action must fulfil three conditions:

  • A complete work stoppage.
  • Consultation with the workforce.
  • Strikers have to issue demands that are related to the terms and conditions of their employment (for instance related to wages, working conditions, or restructuring.

If the three requirements are not met, the strike is considered unlawful. Employees participating in unlawful strikes are not protected by strike legislation and may be sanctioned or dismissed. Unlawful strikes include, for instance, go-slows and acts of sabotage, strikes concerning a particular obligation that is part of the employment contract (such as on-call duty), repeated blockades or occupations of the company without collective work stoppage or employee consultation, and strikes at company level that are purely political.

In the private sector and with the exception of public transport, there is no obligation to inform the employer or to attempt to reach an amicable agreement. There is also no regulation of the minimum or maximum duration of a strike. Occupying company premises and preventing non-strikers from working is also unlawful action.

If the strike is in line with legislation, picketers are protected from sanctions and dismissal on grounds of their participation in the strike. Management may retain a ‘proportional’ part of the striker’s salary and all extra payments, such as compensation for travel expenses.

Industrial action developments 2011–2016

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Working days lost per 1000 employees

77

60

79

81

69

131

Percentage of companies that have experienced a strike

1.8

1.3

1.2

1.4

1.3

1.37

Percentage of employees working in companies that have experienced a strike

25.7

23.9

24.4

23%

24.4

26

Source: DARES (2016).

Dispute resolution mechanisms

Collective dispute resolution mechanisms

According to Article L2522 of the French Labour Code, all work-related collective conflicts may be subject to conciliation. Therefore, there is a network of Regional Conciliation Commissions and one National Conciliation Commission. These tripartite instances can be called upon in case of any collective conflict. Their composition is usually determined by sectoral agreement. These bodies or the public authorities may also launch a mediation to narrow the views (art. L2523-1).

Individual dispute resolution mechanisms

Individual dispute resolution is very rare in France. The point was raised in the Lacarabats report and has been addressed in recent reforms on the employment tribunal system.

Use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms

The mechanisms of conciliation or mediation are not compulsory and, in fact, are rarely used. Therefore, there are no available statistics.

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations are the relationship between the individual worker and their employer. This relationship is shaped by legal regulation and by the outcomes of social partner negotiations over the terms and conditions governing the employment relationship. This section looks into the start and termination of the employment relationship and entitlements and obligations in France.

Start and termination of the employment relationship

Requirements regarding an employment contract

The minimum working age is 18 years, with derogations for those aged 16 and above for certain roles in the workplace, such as apprenticeships. An employment contract exists from the time when an individual (the employee) commits to work for and under the management of another person (the employer). Employment contracts should be issued in written form.

Dismissal and termination procedures

The employment contract implies a state of subordination for the employee and grants the employer the right to take disciplinary action against misconduct. Dismissal must be justified by a ‘real and serious cause’. The employer has to comply with strict procedures. This must begin with a letter hand-delivered or sent by registered post to the employee’s home address, inviting them to attend a preliminary meeting. The grounds for considering dismissal must be clearly stated and the meeting must be held on a date at least five days after the letter is due to be delivered to the employee. The letter must also inform the employee that they are entitled to be accompanied at the meeting by a fellow employee or employee representative. The 2017 labour law reform simplifies, clarifies and secures the procedural rules that apply to redundancy. For instance, the new regulation proposes the use of a pro forma dismissal template and allows the employer to provide additional information before the court. The goal is to reduce the number of cases where an employer has to pay compensation for a dismissal that is deemed to be unfair, but is in fact based on a legitimate cause.

Other termination procedures are: resignation (an employee must prove a clear and unequivocal will to resign); retirement (at the employee’s initiative before he is 70, or at the employer’s initiative after the employee’s 70th birthday) or mutual termination (rupture conventionnelle) which is an agreement between both parties and termination is subject to Labour Inspectorate approval.

Entitlements and obligations

Parental, maternity and paternity leave

Maternity leave

Maximum duration

Mothers are required to take a minimum of eight weeks’ maternity leave, but are entitled to 16 weeks’ leave (usually six weeks prior to the expected date of delivery and ten weeks after). Two additional weeks prior to delivery may be awarded in the case of a pregnancy with complications. On a doctor's recommendation, the mother may also take part of the prenatal leave after the birth. For a third child, leave is extended to 26 weeks (eight pre-natal and 18 post-natal). Mothers expecting twins or triplets (or more) are entitled to 12 weeks' and 24 weeks' pre-natal leave respectively, and 22 weeks of post-natal benefits. In the case of premature births (more than six weeks before the expected date of delivery), the maternity leave period is increased by the number of days intervening between the date of delivery and the date six weeks before the expected date of birth.

Reimbursement

100%, but not more than €87.71 per day, since 1 January 2019

Who pays?

The Assurance maladie (National Health Insurance) unless a sectoral collective agreement obliges the employer to pay

Legal basis

Social Security Code, sectoral collective agreements (if applicable)

Parental leave

Maximum duration

The basic duration of parental leave for one child is one year, which is renewable twice, i.e. three years in total. The period may not exceed the third birthday of the child. For more than one child, the period may be extended up to the time when the child goes to school. For three or more children born or adopted at the same time, the maximum period is six years and may not exceed the sixth birthday of the children. Both mothers and fathers may take parental leave.

Reimbursement

Employees do not receive a salary during parental leave, but may use time saved on their working time account.

Who pays?

Not applicable.

Legal basis

Labour Code.

Paternity leave

Maximum duration

For a single child, fathers may take 11 consecutive days after childbirth including Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. For more than one child, the leave consists of a maximum of 18 days. In addition, the French Labour Code grants 3 days of leave.

Reimbursement

100%, but not more than €87.71 per day, since 1 January 2019, if the father has contributed a sum above a certain threshold to social security for at least 10 months. About 70% of the eligible fathers took their paternity leave in 2016.

Who pays?

Assurance maladie

Legal basis

Labour Code, Social Security Code

Sick leave

The employment contract of an employee who is on leave due to illness is considered suspended. Absence due to illness cannot form the basis of a termination. However, in cases of extended or repeated leave, the employer may (under certain conditions) be entitled to terminate the employment contract on the grounds that the employee’s absence hinders the proper functioning of the company and the company is consequently required to permanently replace the employee. The employee will continue to receive their salary during their absence if they fulfil certain conditions set by the Labour Code or by the applicable collective bargaining agreement, if more favourable. During sickness, after a three-day period of grace, salaries are paid by the National Health Insurance.

Retirement age

The retirement age is 62 for employees born in or after 1955 and between 60 and 62 for people born before. Early retirement is possible. Employees may take retirement with full pensions at the age of 58 or 60 if they have a long career. People born in 1960 and who contributed to social security for 41.75 years (167 quarters) can retire at 60 and at the age of 58 if they have contributed for 43.75 years (175 quarters). Slightly different thresholds apply for people born before or after 1960. A recognised disability also gives a right to early retirement. There is no difference in legal retirement age for men and women.

Pay

Pay

Pay: For workers, the reward for work and main source of income; for employers, a cost of production and focus of bargaining and legislation. This section looks into minimum wage setting in France and guides the reader to further material on collective wage bargaining.

According to the 2017 National Reform Plan, unit labour costs have been less dynamic than those in the euro area since 2013, thanks to an evolution of real wages that are on average lower than productivity gains and measures to reduce the cost of labour (CICE and Pact of Responsibility and Solidarity). The slowdown in wages and the absence of an increase in the minimum wage, beyond the application of the indexation formula, have made it possible to contain the cost of labour. Nominal wages rose from 3.2% over the 2000–2007 period and 1.7% over the 2007–2016 period. In the recent period, negotiated wages (basic monthly wage – SMB – and gross hourly wages - SHBOE) increased slightly by + 1.5% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2018. On the same period, the inflation as increased by + 1.9%. As a result, real wages are moving at a slower pace than before the crisis.

Median monthly basic wages and salary per worker, annual average

 

2011

 

2015

 
 

Men

Women

Men

Women

Full economy

1,820 EUR

1,562 EUR

1,906 EUR

1,650EUR

Source: INSEE (2013) Secteur privé et entreprises publiques, ‘En 2011, les salaires ralentissent de nouveau en euros constants’, Insee Première n° 1471, October 2013; INSEE (2017) ‘Salaires dans le secteur privé En 2015, le salaire net moyen augmente de 1,1 % en euros constants’, Insee Première n° 1669, 12 October 2017) (see Eurostat RAMON for description and classification)

Average monthly basic wages and salaries per worker, annual average

 

2011

 

2015

 
 

Men

Women

Men

Women

Full economy

3,064 EUR

2,493 EUR

3,239 EUR

2,659 EUR

Source: INSEE (2013) Secteur privé et entreprises publiques, ‘En 2011, les salaires ralentissent de nouveau en euros constants’, Insee Première n° 1471, October 2013; INSSE (2017) ‘Salaires dans le secteur privé. En 2015, le salaire net moyen augmente de 1,1 % en euros constants’, Insee Première n° 1669, 12 October 2017 (see Eurostat RAMON for description and classification)

Minimum wages

The legal minimum wage (SMIC) is adjusted annually on 1 January of each year by the government on the basis of non-binding advice from an independent group of experts and after a formal consultation with social partners. It is indexed to inflation (without considering tobacco) for households that belong to the lowest disposable income quintile. Half of the growth in purchasing power of the average hourly wage for workers and employees is added to the result. If inflation exceeds 2% during the year, the SMIC is automatically adjusted. In addition, the Government may decide, at any time, to increase the minimum wage above the calculated rate. It is forbidden to pay workers below the legal minimum wage even though sector-level collective agreements maintain minimum agreed wages lower than the legal minimum wage. The SMIC covers all employees with the exception of young workers in apprenticeship or state subsidised employment contract who receive a reduced minimum wage.

Monthly minimum wages

 

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Adult rate

1,430.22

1,445.38

1,457.52

1,466.62

1,480.27

1,498.47

1,521.22

Youth rate

There is no youth rate in France

Source: Insee (2019), Salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance (Smic) en 2019

For more information regarding the level and development of minimum wages, please see:

Collectively agreed pay outcomes

For more detailed information on the most recent outcomes in terms of collectively agreed pay, please see:

Working time

Working time

Working time: ‘Any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activities or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice’ (Directive 2003/88/EC). This section briefly summarises regulation and issues regarding working time, overtime, part-time work as well as working time flexibility in France.

Working time regulation

French statutory working time is 35 hours per week. The ‘Aubry laws’ of 1998 and 2000 reduced the statutory working week from 39 to 35 hours from 2000 for all companies employing more than 20 people, and from 2002 for smaller companies. All French companies have negotiated working time reductions between 2000 and 2004. The law permits a variety of flexible arrangements whereby companies may derogate (within limits) from certain provisions of the working time legislation, provided such arrangements are negotiated and organised through collective bargaining. This applies, for example, to the annual calculation of overtime if the agreement provides for an annual adjustment of working hours, or in the calculation of executives’ working time by days worked in the course of the year (Boulin & Cette, 2008).

In the framework of the labour law reform of 2016, the decrees No. 2016-1553 and 2016-1551 of 18 November 2016 implement Article 8 of the law, which amends the legislation on working time in three ways: it sets out the relevant public policy provisions relevant to the employment relationship, it specifies the scope of collective bargaining in a branch or enterprise, it sets out the provisions that apply in the absence of a collective agreement.

Since 1 January 2017, the principle is to give primacy to the company-level agreement over the branch agreement for most provisions concerning working time. There is also a new obligation for employers to negotiate on adequate rest times and annual leave, and to pursue agreements that respect the private and family life of employees. In the absence of an agreement, the employer must clearly set out the procedures under which an employee can exercise the ‘right to switch off’ from all work-related communication ( droit à la déconnexion).

For more detailed information on working time (including annual leave, statutory and collectively agreed working time), please consult:

Overtime regulation

Every hour worked above the legally fixed 35 hours counts as overtime. Since 1 January 2017, company-level agreement may fix the additional payment for overtime hours. Then the additional payment can’t be lower than 10%, but it can be lower than the rate stipulated by the applicable sectoral collective agreement. If there is no company-level or sectoral agreement applicable, then the employer must compensate overtimes with an extra 25% for the first eight overtime hours per week and 50% for every additional hour. Alternatively, a sectoral or company agreement may substitute overtime payment by additional time off. Maximum overtime is fixed by law at 220 hours per year, but sectoral or company agreements may deteriorate from the provisions within certain limits. Since 1 January 2017, company-level agreements may introduce flexibilities about the maximum length of the working time. However, in any case, daily working time must not exceed 12 hours per day (or night), 46 hours over a period of 12 consecutive weeks, and 48 hours per week.

Part-time work

Part-time work is defined as working time below 35 hours per week, the applicable working time determined by a collective agreement or the habitual working time of the company. The Labour code provides for a minimum working time limit of 24 hours per week that can be reduced by sectoral-level agreement with compensations (Labour code, L. 3123-19). The proportion of employees working part time has been increasing slowly but steadily over the past 30 years. In 2018, Eurostat figures show that 17.8% of the French workforce worked part time. National data suggest that the increase in part-time work is stronger among men than women, although the latter are still significantly more likely to work reduced hours.

According a study of the Ministry of Labour (DARES, 2013), in 2012 82% of part-time employees in France were women and 31% of female employees worked part time. The rate is particularly high for women with children, as 45% of employees with three or more children worked part time. The rate reaches 56% when the younger child is between 3 and 5 years old.

Persons employed part-time in France (metropolitan) and EU28 (% of total employment)

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Total (EU28)

18.6

19

19

19

18.9

18.7

18.5

Total (France)

17.6

18.0

18.5

18.3

18.1

18.1

17.8

Women (EU28)

31.4

31.8

31.7

31.5

31.4

31.1

30.8

Women (France)

29.9

30.3

30.4

30

29.6

29.4

28.7

Men (EU28)

7.7

8.1

8.2

8.2

8.2

8.1

8

Men (France)

6.3

6.5

7.3

7.3

7.4

7.5

7.6

Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsi_pt_a] – Persons employed part-time (20 to 64 years of age) – total and by sex.

Involuntary part-time

Involuntary part-time workers can be defined as those working part time because they could not find a full-time job.

Persons employed in involuntary part-time in France (metropolitan) and EU28 (% of total part-time employment)

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Total (EU28)

27.7

29.3

29.6

29.1

27.7

26.4

24.8

Total (France)

34.2

39.4

42.4

43.7

44.2

43.1

41.8

Women (EU28)

24.5

26

26.3

25.7

24.6

23.2

22.1

Women (France)

32.6

38.1

40.8

41.8

42.3

41

40

Men (EU28)

38.5

39.9

40.2

39.9

37.6

36.2

33.4

Men (France)

41.6

45.6

48.7

51

51.8

51.1

48.7

Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsa_eppgai]- involuntary part-time employment as a percentage of the total part-time employment, by sex and age (20 to 64 years of age)

Involuntary part-time has sharply increased in France from 34.2 of the workforce in 2012 to 41.8% in 2018. Over half of male employees face involuntary part-time, while less than a quarter of female employees were in the same situation in 2018. The high level of involuntary part-time is related to the importance of the service sector in the French economy and to the high level of unemployment that force people to accept part-time work while they would prefer a full-time position.

Night work

According to the Labour code, ‘night time’ means any work period of 9 consecutively hours worked between 21:00 and 7.00. This work period must include the period between 24:00 and 5:00 (Labour code, L 3122-2). The use of night work is exceptional (Labour code, L. 3122-1).

Shift work

There is no definition of ‘shift work’(travail posté) in the Labour code. The definition of the EU directive is therefore applicable. Shift work means any method of organising work in shifts whereby workers succeed each other at the same work stations according to a certain pattern, including a rotating pattern, and which may be continuous or discontinuous, entailing the need for workers to work at different times over a given period of days or weeks

Weekend work

There is no legal definition of the week-end work. However, the Labour code stipulates that the weekly rest day has to be on Sunday, even if derogations are possible. According to a study by Dares, 25.3% of the workforce work at least two Saturdays per month in 2015, and 12% at least two Sundays per months in 2015 (Dares, 2016).

Rest and breaks

Every employee must have a daily rest period between two working days. The legal period of rest is at least 11 consecutive hours ( Labour Code, article L3131-1). However, derogations from this period may be set by agreement or agreement (Labour code, L3131-2). However, a collective agreement cannot have the effect of reducing the daily rest period to less than nine hours. Employees are not allowed to work for more than six days consecutively ( Labour code, article 3132-1) and the minimum weekly rest is 35 hours (Labour code, article 3132-2). However, derogations are possible.

Working time flexibility

Flexible working time arrangements usually have to be approved by the works council or, if not present, the staff delegate and the labour inspectorate must be informed. If the company has neither a works council nor a staff delegate, the labour inspectorate has to approve the flexible working time arrangement. The labour law reforms of 2016 and 2017 have extended the negotiation of flexibility through company-level agreement.

Health and well-being

Health and well-being

Maintaining health and well-being should be a high priority for workers and employers alike. Health is an asset closely associated with a person’s quality of life and longevity, as well as their ability to work. A healthy economy depends on a healthy workforce: organisations can experience loss of productivity through the ill-health of their workers. This section looks into psychosocial risks and health and safety in France.

Health and safety at work

There has been a significant drop in work-related accidents between 2008 and 2009, which might be an effect of the crisis that showed its strongest impact on industry employment, which is more likely to produce accidents.

Accidents per 1000 employees and % change from previous year

 

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

All accidents

523,230

474,825

618,495

483,476

461,376

440,424

467,869

465,887

463,396

Percentage change on previous year

 

-9.3

30.3

-21.8

-4.6

-4.5

6.2

-0.4

-0.5

Per 1,000 employees

22.6

20.8

27.2

21.2

20.2

19.3

20.1

19.9

19.8

Source: Eurostat, [hsw_mi01] and [lfsa_eegaed]

Psychosocial risks

Employers are legally obliged (Labour code, Article L. 4121-1) to evaluate psychosocial risks and to take the necessary measures to ensure the protection and security of the employees’ mental and physical health. For this purpose, employers must provide measures to tackle the sources of the risks and to adapt working conditions accordingly. The latter might include the conception of workplaces, adaptation of methods of work and production in order to, for instance, avoid monotonous work and work at a predetermined work-rate, technical support, and other measures. Moreover, employers are required to plan risk prevention holistically, taking into account technical aspects, work organisation, employment and social relations, in particular with regards to moral and sexual harassment. In addition, there are two national cross-sectoral agreements that have dealt with psychosocial risks, namely the 2008 agreement on stress at work and the 2010 agreement on harassment and violence at work.

Skills, learning and employability

Skills, learning and employability

Skills are the passport to employment; the better skilled an individual, the more employable they are. Good skills also tend to secure better-quality jobs and better earnings. This section briefly summarises the French system for ensuring skills and employability and looks into the extent of training

National system for ensuring skills and employability

All employers must participate in the funding of ensuring skills and employability through the provision of training to their employees.

Training

The 2016 labour law reform has changed how employers’ contributions to vocational training are calculated. Previously this was 1.6% of payroll costs in companies with 20 or more employees, and 1.05% for those with between 10 and 19 employees. This is replaced by a single, compulsory contribution of 1% of payroll costs for all businesses with more than 10 employees. The only lower rate is 0.55 % for those companies with fewer than 10 employees.

Since 1 January 2015 all employees have an individual training account valid from when they first join the labour market to when they retire. An employee who changes jobs or alternates between work and unemployment will retain his or her right to training. On 1 January 2017, the so-called personal training account (compte personnel d’activité, CPA) merged the training rights recorded into three previous schemes: the individual training accounts created in 2015, the individual accounts for employees performing arduous task launched in 2016 and the citizen engagement account. Workers over 16 years old are invited to create their personal accounts on a specific website to cumulate rights to finance professional training.

Since 1 January 2019, the personal training account is credited in euro instead of hours. The aim is to provide access to a higher number of training courses, certified by the new vocational education and training governance body (France Compétence) to overcome current eligibility restraints due to the sectoral segmentation of the current system. To ease access to certified training, the law introduces a modularisation of the courses, with all professional certifications being divided into ‘competencies blocks’. Autonomy of individuals should be supported by professional counselling, which will receive additional funding. The governance of the system is being reshaped, with new responsibilities given to multi-sectoral skills operators (Opérateurs de compétences) to support companies in defining the training needs. The new national body France Compétences will be in charge of financing and regulating the system. Regions would see their role of overseeing coordination in orientation and guidance strengthened, including for additional professional counselling.

Work organisation

Work organisation

Work organisation underpins economic and business development and has important consequences for productivity, innovation and working conditions. Eurofound research finds that some types of work organisation are associated with a better quality of work and employment. Therefore, developing or introducing different forms of work organisation are of particular interest because of the expected effects on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of companies, as well as on workers’ working conditions. Ongoing research by Eurofound, based on EurWORK, the European Working Conditions Survey and the European Company Survey, monitors developments in work organisation.

For France, the European Company Survey 2013 shows that between 2010 and 2013 30% of establishments with 10 or more employees reported changes in the use of technology, 30% introduced changes in ways to coordinate and allocate the work to workers and 18% saw changes in their working time arrangements.

The last important working condition survey was conducted in 2013 (Enquête sur les conditions de travail). A recent survey on health and safety at work (Summer) was conducted in 2017. The DARES (Ministry of Labour) published key data in 2016 about working conditions in France.

 

Equality and non-discrimination at work

Equality and non-discrimination at work

The principle of equal treatment requires that all people, and in the context of the workplace all workers, have the right to receive the same treatment, and will not be discriminated against on the basis of criteria such as age, disability, nationality, sex, race and religion.

The general prohibition of discrimination at work is contained in the preamble to the 1946 Constitution, which states ‘no person may be prejudiced, in their work or employment, on the grounds of their origins, opinions or beliefs’. The current legislation (Labour Code, art. L1131-1) stipulates that no-one may be discriminated against on the basis of origin; sex; morality; sexual orientation; age (unless the differential treatment is justified by a legitimate objective, such as when it is a specific requirement of the job); family status; genetic characteristics; actual or supposed adherence or non-observance of any ethnic origin, nationality or race; political opinions; trade union membership or similar activity; religious beliefs; physical appearance; surname; health or disability.

This applies to access to a recruitment process, internship or training course. No employee may be sanctioned, dismissed or subjected to discriminatory measures. All types of discrimination are prohibited, whether direct or indirect, and particularly in matters of pay, training, appointment, qualification, rank, promotion, variation or renewal of contract. No employee may be sanctioned, dismissed or subjected to any discriminatory measure on the grounds that he or she is lawfully exercising his or her right to strike.

Equal pay and gender pay gap

Equality between men and women has become a subject of mandatory bargaining for companies with at least 50 employees, an obligation now accompanied by a financial penalty of up to 1% of the total payroll amount if not complied with (Labour code, L2242-8). Important agreements were reached in large companies.

According to Eurostat, the gender pay gap in France was slightly below the EU28 average in 2016 (15.2% and 16.2%, respectively). According to INSEE, the gap has consistently decreased since 2008, from 20.9% to 18.5% in 2015.

A new measure included in the Law 2018-771 of 5 September 2018 on ‘freedom to choose one’s professional future’ aims to reduce the wage gap between women and men. This innovative system is based first of all on an employer's self-assessment based on an index composed of five indicators, each with a value expressed in points:

  • the elimination of wage gaps between women and men, in comparable positions and ages (40 points)
  • the same chance of having a salary increase for women as for men (20 points)
  • the same chance of obtaining a promotion for women as for men (15 points)
  • all female employees given pay increases that have been given in their absence upon their return from maternity leave (15 points)
  • at least four women or men in the 10 highest paying positions (10 points)

The employer must evaluate its performance according to these five criteria, publish the results on its website, forward them to employees’ representatives and give itself an overall score. If the score is less than 75 points, corrective measures must be implemented. Companies that have not achieved satisfactory results by 1 March 2022 will risk a penalty of up to 1% of the pay-roll. For companies with 50 to 250 employees, the penalty will be applicable starting 1 March 2023.

Quota regulations

In 2010, the Government passed legislation to commit companies traded on the stock exchange to increase the share of women on their supervisory boards to 40% by 2016.

In 2005, French Government introduced rules on the compulsory employment of disabled workers, the Obligation d’emploi de travailleurs handicapés (OETH). Companies with at least 20 staff must have 6% of full- time equivalent workers on their payroll registered as disabled. In 2018, the government has announced a reform this regulation, which has not fully achieved its objectives.

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