France: Latest working life developments – Q4 2016

The enactment of laws on labour reform, protection for whistleblowers, negotiations on unemployment insurance and the restructuring of trade unions and employer organisations are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in France in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Implementation of labour market reform

At the legislative level, several decrees allow the entry into force of important provisions of the law on the labour market reform adopted in July 2016. 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.

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).

Protection of whistleblowers and duty of vigilance for multinationals 

A law has been adopted that gives whistleblowers a common status, whatever sector their alert relates to, guarantees them protection against charges of criminal irresponsibility and prohibits an employer from taking any other form of punitive action against them.

Another new law creates a fixed-term employment contract specific to professional video game players.

The National Assembly has passed a draft law on the duty of vigilance of parent and contracting companies to prevent the occurrence of tragedies such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. Large companies will have to draw up and implement a vigilance plan that ensures their activities do not cause serious harm to human rights and fundamental freedoms, human health and safety or to the environment. This obligation is extended to the companies they control and to their subcontractors or suppliers. The text is being read again in Parliament but there is every indication that it will be adopted.

The Ministry of Labour presented a practical guide to religion in private companies and a report on labour, employment and social protection issues for collaborative workers (PDF).

Unemployment insurance and negotiations in the metal industry

Discussions on the renewal of the collective agreement governing the functioning of unemployment insurance resumed between the social partners at interprofessional level after a first failure in June 2016. The discussions focused on drawing up a ‘shared diagnosis of the issues and the partners will decide on 25 February 2017 whether or not to open new negotiations.

Discussions were also held on whether to renew the framework of youth employment and telework through a collective agreement, or to at least to draw up a good practice guide.

At sectoral level, the social partners in the metal sector have begun negotiations on the recasting of all collective social guarantees. This could lead to the creation of a single national collective agreement to replace the multiple territorial collective agreements.

Restructuring of trade unions and employer organisations

Restructuring of trade union branches is underway, having been launched by the publication of a decree that sets out the restructuring procedure. Over a period of three years, the aim is to reduce the current 700 branches to around 200.

On 17 November 2016, the Craftwork Employers’ Association (UPA) merged with the National Union of Liberal Professions (UNAPL) to create a new body, U2P. In addition, the General Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises (CGPME) changed its name to the Confederation of SMEs (CPME). CPME is organised into four national sections: commerce, services, industry and crafts.

Commentary

Despite slow economic growth, a decline in unemployment seems to be underway, although this improvement comes too late for President François Hollande who has already declared that he will not stand for re-election.

With the Presidential election in May 2017 now just a short time away, to be followed by parliamentary elections in June 2017, important legislative changes are at an end for the moment. The government will focus mainly on the implementation of its final reforms, such as the individual occupational account (compte personnel d’activité) which came into force on 1 January 2017 and compulsory ID cards in the construction sector. 

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