Promised Reform of French Labour Law

The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, announced last week that proposals will be brought to parliament next year intended to reform France’s “overly complex and sometimes even unreadable” labour laws.

As part of its agreement with the European Commission and the IMF permitting France more leeway on budget deficit reduction, France has promised to speed up the structural reform of its highly regulated labour market. Another incentive of course is its stubbornly high unemployment rate of around 10%.

The main theme of the proposals will be “more flexibility” but without reducing worker protection. For instance, the 35 hour week will not be challenged. A key recommendation will be to allow companies to negotiate direct with unions certain significant matters where currently there are restrictions – including working conditions and salaries.

In addition companies would only be free to sign deals with organisations representing at least 50% of workers voting in union elections, an increase from the current 30%.

There has been a mixed response from unions with some even welcoming the proposals. Nevertheless the government can expect an uphill struggle as it tries to get the reforms through to a parliamentary vote next summer.

These new proposals share the same liberalising objectives as the Macron Laws which just became law. The Macron Laws include more flexible Sunday trading and night working rules and a cap on damages for redundancy without an actual basis.