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03. Working Conditions

Minimum Working Conditions

Employers and employees are free to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment relationship. However, employees have various minimum rights under the law, regardless of any contrary language in their employment agreement. These minimum working conditions are set forth in the French Labour Code and the applicable Collective Agreement, among other sources.

Salary

As of 1 January 2016, the minimum gross monthly wage is EUR 1,498.47 (about USD 1,753) for a 35-hour workweek. All employees who are employed under an ordinary employment contract (either indefinite or fixed-term) are entitled to the minimum wage. CBAs also frequently provide higher minimum wages.

Maximum Working Week

Usually, employees work 35 hours a week. However, employers can agree on a longer workweek with their employees. In that case, any work over 35 hours a week is payable as overtime (although there is no entitlement to additional days off).

In any event, employees should not work more than:

  • an average of 44 hours a week during any 12 consecutive weeks;
  • 48 hours during any given week;
  • 10 hours a day

It is possible to negotiate a more flexible working schedule for all employees with trade unions at company level. A law dated 20 August 2008 reforming working time (“Loi portant renovation de la démocratie sociale et réforme du temps de travail”) (“Working Time Law”) provides for working time to be reorganised at company level (subject to applicable CBAs). Working time can notably be reorganised on a multiple-week basis, i.e. the employee works an average 35 hours over 4 (or more) weeks, while his working time is different each week.

However, statutory restrictions on working time should be met and the employees duly informed of the working schedule.

Special rules apply to autonomous executives (that is to say executives of a certain level who freely organise their working time). For example, the ”forfait-jours” agreement (lump sum remuneration for a working time in days agreement) which is a mechanism that allows the working time of an employee to be calculated by the number of days worked per year instead of the usual number of hours worked per week or month. “Forfait jours” agreement is only possible for certain employees and provided certain conditions, notably where it has been authorised by means of a specific collective agreement (“accord collectif”). The French Supreme Court has recently invalidated some “forfait jours” agreements that failed to ensure the employee’s health and security, and new collective bargaining agreement provisions were negotiated in several sectors.

Overtime

Only hours worked in excess of the statutory weekly working hours at the request of the employee’s superior will be regarded as overtime. However, the employer has the duty to ensure that employees do not exceed the daily and weekly limits.

Those who work overtime are entitled to compensatory payment involving a surcharge (which is generally 25% for the first 8 hours put in during the week, then 50%), and which cannot be less than 10%, of the employee’s standard pay. Each overtime hour may either be paid or compensated with compensatory rest, i.e. every hour of overtime worked gives rise to either 1 hour of pay or 1 hour of rest, plus the relevant surcharge.

All overtime hours performed are computed within the yearly overtime limit (“contingent”).

According to French law, the employer is free to require each employee to work overtime up to an annual limit agreed in the applicable collective agreement or, in the absence of a collective agreement, up to a legal limit of 220 hours per year per employee.

Provided the employer does not require the employee to work beyond the legal limits, the employee has no right to refuse to work overtime. Over this threshold, the employee is entitled to “mandatory rest” in addition to financial compensation.

The employer can only request the employee to work in excess of the legally recognised overtime level if he has consulted the Works Council or, in the absence of a Works Council, staff representatives.

The employee’s total working hours in a given month should be recorded in writing on his/her pay slip, with overtime clearly indicated on a separate line. Failure to do so constitutes a criminal offense.

Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace

The employer’s safety obligation is not limited to the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases. It is much broader and covers all risks to which the employee may be exposed at work, including psychosocial risks. This is an obligation of result.

Professional risk prevention measures should be sought, employees should receive information and training about these risks, and the employer should be compliant with certain specific rules in the arrangement and use of premises to ensure the health and safety of the employee. For example, premises should be clean and clear of clutter, facilities and technical and safety devices maintained and checked regularly, the employees should have protection against smoking and loud noises, sufficient light, etc.

The employer should assess potential risks in a document called a single document occupational risk assessment (DUERP), including: 1) the choice of manufacturing processes, work equipment, the chemical substances or preparations; 2) the development or redevelopment of workplaces or facilities; 3) defining workstations; and 4) the impact of inequalities between women and men.

Mandatory for any business, this document includes: i) an inventory of the risks identified in each of the business units of work; ii) the classification of these risks; and iii) proposals for actions to be implemented.

The DUERP should be updated once a year, at a minimum.

The Labour Inspector will check that safety rules in the company are adhered to. Where an employer is negligent, the powers of the Labour Inspector are the following:

  • draft minutes and give notice to the employer for violations;
  • seize in summary procedure the referral judge in case of a serious risk to the physical integrity of a worker;
  • prescribe all necessary measures, including, in case of grave and imminent danger, the temporary cessation of work on certain projects.

The liability of an employer who fails to abide by safety requirements includes:

  • civilly liability in case of accident or illness of the employee;
  • criminal liability (fines and, in some cases, jail sentences).

Telework

The Macron reform brings telework provisions into the 21st century, with the possibility of its implementation by collective agreement or, failing that, by a charter drawn up by the employer after a possible consultation with the CSE in some cases. In the absence of a charter or collective agreement on telework, it is possible to set up telework via an agreement between the employer and employee, formalised by any means.

Complaint Procedures

The new Sapin II law expands extra-territorial reach for French prosecutors. The law applies fully to corruption by French companies overseas and foreign companies who have a presence in France. It should also be noted that the Sapin II law expressly provides for the possibility for employees to appeal to the Labour Court, by way of summary judgment, in the event of termination of the employment contract following the notification of an alert within the meaning set out by the law.

Any questions

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