The landmark adoption of new industrial relations legislation by the French parliament on 23 July 2015 is likely to significantly alter the industrial relations landscape and, in particular, worker representation practices in France.
The new law aims to:
- combine various hitherto separate forms of employee participation and representation bodies;
- address the problem of excessive formalism in social dialogue;
- introduce new rights to promote trade union involvement.
First of all, in companies with fewer than 300 employees (formerly 200) the new law will allow various types of worker representation body (works council, health and safety committee and worker delegates) to be combined to form a single body. In companies with more than 300 employees such combination of worker representation bodies will require an agreement. The purpose of this aspect of the reform is to obtain a single opinion on the part of the company workforce as a whole.
Secondly, the new law seeks to simplify and combine into a single whole 17 currently separate information and consultation obligations and 12 negotiation obligations. In companies where a majority agreement has been signed the law will open up the possibility to redefine the number of annual meetings and the schedules for expression of opinions and negotiations by/with worker representatives, as well as to bring together under a single heading various topics subject to social dialogue. A further option introduced by the law is the replacement of physical meetings with workers by videoconferences that may be held up to three times a year.
Thirdly, the rules for protection of workers’ representatives are redefined. The new law guarantees the recognition of skills obtained by employees during the period of holding a representative’s mandate; introduces a ban on wage discrimination for worker representatives whose mandate exceeds 30% of their annual working time; and ensures wage developments for such representatives in line with those granted to their peers.
Finally, the law also introduces employee representation for companies with fewer than 11 employees – such workers having previously been deprived of any representation – in the form of regional joint social partner commissions.
The French MPs decided also to lower thresholds for board-level employee representation (BLER).