Ban on women's night work to be reviewed

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On 8 April 1997, Jacques Barrot, the Minister for Employment, gave the press a preview of the forthcoming legislation on the reduction of social security contributions and the statutory working week. Among the subjects dealt with will be a revision of existing legislation on banning women from working at night, which Mr Barrot deems necessary.

This questioning of existing legislation follows the ruling against France by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 13 March 1997. The ECJ ruled that France had failed its duty by not abrogating article L.213-1 of the Labour Code. This article, which refers to an ILO convention of 9 July 1948, bans women from working at night in industry, subject to agreed exemptions. It must be noted that in July 1991, this article was the subject of a court ruling which found the ban on women from working night shifts incompatible with the 1976 EC Directive on equal treatment for men and women. This ruling henceforth rendered article L.213-1 void in legal terms. Now anyone can ask a judge to annul its application, since it does not conform to Community law.

On the matter of the bill concerning the adjustment of the statutory working week, Jacques Barrot indicated the French Government's desire to amend French legislation on night work for women. However, he made it clear that if the ban on night work were lifted, the Labour Code would ensure that pregnant women and employees who have family obligations had the right to refuse such working conditions.

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