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France: New Labor Reforms Adopted

(Oct. 25, 2017) On September 22, 2017, President Emmanuel Macron of France signed a series of five executive ordinances bringing major changes to the country’s Labor Code. (Emmanuel Macron signe les ordonnances réformant le droit du travail [Emmanuel Macron Signs the Ordinances Reforming Labor Law], LE MONDE (Sept. 22, 2017).)  These five ordinances are:

These new labor law reforms build on reforms pushed through by the previous French administration in August 2016. (Nicolas Boring, France: Controversial Labor Law Reform Adopted, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Oct. 14, 2016).) Some of the most important changes have to do with the ability of businesses to lay off employees.  (Julien Absalon, Code du travail: ce que change la réforme pour les licenciements [Labor Code: What the Reform Changes for Layoffs], RTL EMPLOI (Aug. 31, 2017.) The reforms streamline the process for laying employees off; establish both a minimum and a maximum severance compensation that can be imposed by labor courts (Conseils de prud’hommes); establish a separate, increased scale for severance compensation in cases where the employer violated a fundamental right of the employee; establish a one-year statute of limitation for ex-employees to challenge a lay-off in court; and increase the ability of employers to lay off personnel for economic reasons.  (Id.)

The new ordinances also aim to promote negotiations between employee representatives and employers within individual businesses rather than sector-wide negotiations, bring some changes to the organization of employee representation within businesses, and establish a new type of short-term employment contract based on the time needed to finish specific tasks. (Alexandre Boudet, Découvrez les ordonnances qui modifieront le code du Travail [Discover the Ordinances that Will Change the Labor Code], HUFFPOST FRANCE (Sept. 1, 2017).)

Procedure Used to Adopt the Reforms

These reforms were adopted using a special constitutional procedure whereby the Parliament authorizes the President to legislate via ordinances on issues that are normally within the Parliament’s purview. (Constitution of October 4, 1958, art. 38, LEGIFRANCE (in French).)  The Parliament granted the authorization on September 15, 2017 by the adoption of an Authorization Law.  (Loi n° 2017-1340 du 15 septembre 2017 d’habilitation à prendre par ordonnances les mesures pour le renforcement du dialogue social (1) [Law No. 2017-1340 of 15 September 2017 to Authorize the Issuance of Ordinances on Measures to Reinforce Social Dialogue (1)], LEGIFRANCE.)

Entry into Force

While most of the provisions in the five ordinances came into force on the day they were published in the Journal Officiel de la République Française (the French official gazette), they are set to expire unless they are ratified by the Parliament within a defined timeframe. (Constitution, art. 38.)  The Authorization Law required that the ratification bill be submitted within three months of the ordinances’ official publication.  (Loi No. 2017-1340 du 15 septembre 2017, art. 8).  In fulfillment of this requirement, a ratification bill was submitted to the Parliament on September 27, 2017, by Labor Minister Muriel Pénicaud.  (Projet de loi ratifiant diverses ordonnances prises sur le fondement de la loi n° 2017-1340 du 15 septembre 2017 d’habilitation à prendre les mesures pour le renforcement du dialogue social [Bill to Ratify Various Ordinances Issued on the Basis of Law No. 2017-1340 of 15 September 2017 to Authorize the Issuance of Ordinances on Measures to Reinforce Social Dialogue], No. 237, Assemblée Nationale [National Assembly], Fifteenth Legislature, National Assembly website.)

Despite significant opposition to the labor reforms on the part of several unions and left-wing parties, it is expected that the ratification bill will be adopted without much trouble.  (Alexandre Boudet, Macron a signé les ordonnances, mais le parcours de la loi Travail n’est pas terminé [Macron Signed the Ordinances, but the Process for the Labor Law Is Not Over], HUFFPOST FRANCE (Sept. 22, 2017).)