Which issues would you most highlight to someone new to your country?
In 2017 President Macron pushed for the publication of decrees aimed at increasing flexibility and reducing risk in French labour law.
Key aspects of the so-called ‘Macron reforms’ relate to:
- changes to negotiating collective bargaining agreements (CBAs);
- the simplification of staff representative structures; and
- significant efforts to secure dismissals.
This social transformation plan – which is unprecedented in scope – is not over, as further key reforms remain pending, including a much anticipated pension reform.
According to the government, the overarching goal is for 18 million employees, 3 million businesses and 2.6 million jobseekers to gain more freedom, protection and equal opportunities. The reforms aim at enabling businesses and employees to anticipate risks and adapt simply, swiftly and securely.
What do you consider unique to those doing business in your country?
French employment law is usually more protective of employees’ rights, although the Macron reforms have introduced flexibility. Parties doing business in France should consider the importance of CBAs, as well as the role and power of staff representative bodies.
Is there any general advice you would give in the employment area?
Termination processes and collective matters are well regulated under French law.
Emerging issues/hot topics/proposals for reform
Are there any noteworthy proposals for reform in your jurisdiction?
The following proposals are noteworthy:
- The Law for Freedom to Choose One's Professional Future – this new law aims to reform the system of initial and lifelong vocational training (apprenticeships), as well as the functioning of unemployment insurance.
- The Economic Growth and Company Transformation Bill – this bill is due to be debated before the Senate in January 2019. Among other things, the bill aims to:
- unify staff thresholds in French companies;
- increase the obligation for certain types of large company to have employee representatives with voting rights on the board; and
- encourage the simplification of employee saving schemes in private companies.
- Withholding tax – since 1 January 2019, a withholding tax system has been implemented regarding income tax.
What are the emerging trends in employment law in your jurisdiction?
The gig economy is a hot issue in France, especially as the French Supreme Court recently requalified the employment contract of a platform worker into an employment contract.
The employment relationship
Country specific laws
What laws and regulations govern the employment relationship?
In addition to the employment contract, various sources govern the employment relationship, including (in order of priority):
- the Constitution;
- EU law and international treaties;
- the Labour Code, which contains rules applicable to labour relationships (including, among other things, the employment contract, collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and staff representatives);
- case law;
- CBAs, which contain rules negotiated with unions at the branch level and are applicable to all employers within the branch;
- company collective agreements, which are rules negotiated with unions at the group or company level, pertaining to a variety of provisions (eg, wages and duration of work);
- internal rules and regulations, which are drafted by the employer (after consultation with staff representatives) and set forth the applicable disciplinary procedures, as well as rules regarding everyday life within the company; and
- company practices, which are set up unilaterally by the employer and apply only if they are more favourable than the applicable collective agreements.
Who do these cover, including categories of worker?
As far as national workers are concerned, the provisions of the Labour Code dealing with individual and collective labour relations apply to private employers and their employees.
These provisions also apply to the personnel of public bodies employed under the conditions of private law, subject to special provisions that have the same object and result from the statute governing such personnel.
The provisions on working hours, salary, profit sharing, participation and employee savings apply to private law employers and their employees, as well as public establishments of an industrial and commercial nature.
The provisions dealing with health and security at work apply to employers governed by private law and to workers. These provisions also apply to:
- public establishments of an industrial and commercial nature;
- public administrative establishments which employ personnel under private law conditions; and
- health, social and medico-social establishments.
Self-employed workers do not benefit from protections and rights under the Labour Code, and must register for non-employees’ social security.
Are there specific rules regarding employee/contractor classification?
Workers in France are usually categorised as:
- blue-collar workers and clerical staff;
- technicians and supervisors;
- engineers and executives; or
- senior executives.
However, CBAs often provide a more precise classification of workers based on the specification of the branch.
Must an employment contract be in writing?
Employment contracts are not generally required to be in writing; however, a written contract is necessary where:
- an applicable CBA requires it;
- it is a fixed-term contract;
- it is a part-time contract;
- it is a temporary contract;
- it is an apprenticeship employment contract; or
- it is a professionalisation employment contract.
The employer must provide the employee with a written statement of the essential terms governing the employment relationship.
Are any terms implied into employment contracts?
Employment contracts are subject to the rules of common law and may be established in the form that the contracting parties decide to adopt. In addition to the employment contract, various sources govern the employment relationship, including:
- international conventions and EU law;
- the Constitution;
- the Labour Code;
- case law;
- CBAs; and
- company collective agreements.
An employment contract can alter these implied provisions only if it benefits the employee.
Are mandatory arbitration/dispute resolution agreements enforceable?
Under French law, arbitration clauses are prohibited in the employment contract and must, in principle, be considered void. The Labour Code provides that the industrial tribunal will have exclusive jurisdiction to hear disputes arising from the execution or termination of an employment contract, irrespective of the amount of the claim.
The French Supreme Court has ruled that an arbitration clause inserted in an international employment contract is not enforceable against an employee who has regularly seized the competent French jurisdiction under the applicable rules – the law governing the employment contract being of little importance.
How can employers make changes to existing employment agreements?
Whether an employer can change the terms and conditions of employment depends on whether the change will result in a modification to the employment contract or a change to the conditions of employment.
In principle, if the change affects one (or several) of the essential terms of the employment contract (eg, salary or the duration of work), the employee must expressly consent.
An employee's refusal to accept this type of change is not a ground for dismissal, except:
- in the scope of the performance of company collective agreements (introduced by the Macron reforms, with a specific regime); or
- if the modification relates to an economic rationale (having a specific regime).
If the modification consists of only a minor change to the conditions of employment (eg, a small change to the workplace), the change anticipated by the employer can be directly applied to the employees. An employee's refusal in this instance could constitute misconduct.
Is a distinction drawn between local and foreign workers?
Local workers who are employed under a contract of employment are subject and entitled to all statutory provisions set out in the Labour Code and applicable collective agreements (eg, the CBA applicable to the company or company-wide collective agreements).
Foreign nationals working in France can choose the law applicable to their employment contract under Article 8(1) of the EU Rome I Regulation (593/2008) on the law applicable to contractual obligations.
However, where the applicable law would have otherwise been French law, the Labour Code's mandatory laws apply. This usually applies where employees normally carry out work in France (Article 8(2) of Rome I).
Mandatory laws have a broader scope than public policy rules and are contained in most of the Labour Code provisions. They apply regardless of the contract's provisions, unless those provisions are more favourable to the employee (Article 8(1) of Rome I).
In contrast, where the applicable law would not have been French law, the law chosen by the parties applies. However, certain French rules apply regardless of this choice, including special rules that apply to posted employees (ie, employees who are sent to a host member state under the framework of a transnational provision of services). These employees are subject to only the public policy rules listed in Article L.1262-4 of the Labour Code, which apply regardless of the governing law and the employee's nationality.
Public policy rules are limited and mainly cover:
- individual and collective employment rights, including the right to strike;
- the minimum wage;
- illegal work;
- working hours;
- paid holiday;
- working conditions; and
- health and safety.
What are the requirements relating to advertising positions?
It is prohibited to make, publish or diffuse an offer of employment that:
- mentions a higher age limit, unless this is a legal or regulatory obligation; or
- contains text written in a foreign language.
Moreover, job offers (in the broad sense, emails or internal instructions referring to the intent to recruit or reject a potential employee) cannot include a reference to one of the discriminatory grounds.
Background checks What can employers do with regard to background checks and inquiries in relation to the following:
Asking about an applicant's criminal record is neither expressly authorised nor prohibited by the Labour Code. However, since all information requested must relate to the role, it is justified in only a few instances, such as where the role involves the regular use of money (eg, banking activities).
Medical checks that do not relate to the considered role are prohibited before hiring.
Medical checks that do not relate to the considered role are prohibited before hiring.
Under Article L.1221-6 of the Labour Code, the information requested by an employer from a prospective employee is strictly limited to matters relating to the role and must be aimed at assessing the employee’s professional skills.
Employers can check an employee’s immigration status because foreign nationals wishing to work in France must apply for a work permit, which will – if granted – authorise them to enter and reside temporarily in France, as well as work in France.
Under Article L.1221-6 of the Labour Code, the information requested by an employer from a prospective employee is strictly limited to matters relating to the role and must be aimed at assessing the employee’s professional skills.
An employer or recruiter may not require a candidate to provide information about their private life unless it has a direct and necessary connection to the proposed employment (eg, the possession of a driving licence in the case of recruitment as a delivery driver).
Wages and working time
Is there a national minimum wage and, if so, what is it?
Employees who are employed under an ordinary employment contract (either indefinite or fixed term) are entitled to the minimum wage.
Collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) also frequently provide for minimum wages (depending on job categories).
In 2018 the minimum gross monthly wage (SMIC) was €1,498.47 for a 35-hour working week. As of 1 January 2019, the SMIC has increased by 1.5%, taking into account inflation, and amounts to more than €1,521.
Are there restrictions on working hours?
Usually, employees work 35 hours per week. In addition, employees must not work more than:
- an average of 44 hours per week during any 12 consecutive weeks;
- 48 hours during any given week;
- 10 hours per day; or
- 220 hours of overtime per year (subject to applicable CBAs or company collective agreements).
Hours and overtime
What are the requirements for meal and rest breaks?
When employees work more than six hours per day, they are entitled to a rest break of 20 minutes, including a lunch break, unless more favourable provisions are made by an applicable CBA. In many companies, the rules applicable to meal breaks are framed by a CBA or a company collective agreement. Such agreements can provide a minimum duration which, in practice, can vary between 30 minutes and two hours.
How should overtime be calculated?
Overtime hours are paid when the employee works more than an average of 35 hours per week, calculated over a four-week period.
What exemptions are there from overtime?
Special rules apply to autonomous executives (ie, executives of a certain level who freely organise their working time) and employees who can autonomously organise their working schedules. These executives can:
- agree to a set number of days to be worked each year (this number cannot exceed 218 days, allowing – on average – nine additional days off each year); and
- renounce some of their days off, depending on the applicable CBA – if there is no applicable CBA, they must not work more than 235 days per year.
However, recent case law has increased the conditions to validly implement this type of working time arrangement. Most notably, the employer must put in place a procedure designed to regularly check the workload of the employee concerned.
The Labour Law 2016 aims to secure this type of arrangement by setting out minimum rules for monitoring the workload of employees where no sufficient provisions are provided for by a collective agreement.
Generally, all employees (including executives) must be granted:
- a daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours; and
- a weekly rest period of 35 consecutive hours, including Sundays.
If these rules are not respected, the working-days scheme is no longer valid. Therefore, the employee could obtain a back payment of salary for all overtime worked.
Is there a minimum paid holiday entitlement?
Employees are entitled to a minimum of five weeks' paid holiday per year, in addition to public holidays.
The law and CBAs grant additional paid leave for employees who have reached a specific length of service and for family-related events. Autonomous executives also benefit from additional days off.
Moreover, France has public holidays, which are not included in the minimum holiday entitlement.
What are the rules applicable to final pay and deductions from wages?
When terminating an employment contract, the employer must give the employee a receipt acknowledging full settlement.
Under French law, pecuniary penalties are strictly prohibited as the employer is not responsible towards the employee, unless gross misconduct has occurred. In some cases, a deduction from wages can be made (eg, in the case of unjustified absences or strike action).
What payroll and payment records must be maintained?
Pay slips (double paper or electronic) and documents concerning employment contracts, wages, bonuses, allowances, balances of any account or pension plans must be kept for five years.
Documents on payroll taxes must be kept for three years.
Discrimination, harassment & family leave
What is the position in relation to: Protected categories
Discrimination on the grounds of age is prohibited throughout the employment relationship. Employers cannot punish or dismiss employees, or exclude potential employees from the recruitment process, on the basis of age.
It is prohibited to punish or dismiss employees, or exclude potential employees from the recruitment process, on the basis of race.
It is prohibited to punish or dismiss employees, or exclude potential employees from the recruitment process, on the basis of disability.
It is prohibited to punish or dismiss employees, or exclude potential employees from the recruitment process, on the basis of gender.
(e) Sexual orientation?
It is prohibited to punish or dismiss employees, or exclude potential employees from the recruitment process, on the basis of sexual orientation.
It is prohibited to punish or dismiss employees, or exclude potential employees from the recruitment process, on the basis of religion.
It is prohibited to punish or dismiss employees, or exclude potential employees from the recruitment process, on the basis of a medical condition.
It is prohibited to punish or dismiss employees, or exclude potential employees from the recruitment process, on the basis of:
- marital status;
- genetic characteristics;
- a particular vulnerability due to an apparent or known economic condition;
- ethnic or racial origin;
- political opinion;
- trade union activities;
- physical appearance;
- family name;
- place of residence or banking domiciliation; or
- the ability to speak a language other than French.
Family and medical leave
What is the position in relation to family and medical leave?
The law and collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) grant additional paid leave for family-related events. Article L.1226-1 of the Labour Code provides that the employee's remuneration must be maintained (taking into account social security payments) for a certain length of time (up to 90 days), depending on the employee's seniority and provided that the employee:
- has at least one year's service with the employer;
- provides a medical certificate within 48 hours of the absence;
- is covered by social security; and
- benefits from medical care either in France or in a member state.
In addition, CBAs often specify that the employer must supplement social security payments for a certain period, up to the level of all or part of an employee's salary if that employee has attained a specific length of service. This is a personal obligation of the employer and payments cannot be recovered from the social security system. However, most companies are insured to cover these obligations.
What is the position in relation to harassment?
Employees are protected from moral and sexual harassment, as well as “sexist behaviour”.
The Law for the Freedom to Choose One's Professional Future 2018 and the Law Strengthening the Fight Against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence 2018 have introduced amendments to combat sexual harassment and sexist behaviour, including the obligation to appoint a dedicated referent and strengthened information obligations.
Harassment is a criminal offence punishable by up to two years' imprisonment and a maximum fine of €30,000 (Article 222-33-2 of the Criminal Code).
Any disadvantageous measure taken (eg, a dismissal) resulting from discrimination or an act of sexual or psychological harassment (or the reporting of these acts) is void. It is prohibited to punish or dismiss employees who have suffered from, have refused to undergo or have testified or recounted sexual or moral harassment.
Such employees must be reinstated or receive compensatory damages. The law provides for a minimum payment of six months of damages if the employee does not ask to be reinstated, in addition to payment of the employee's remuneration for the period covered by the annulment. Additionally, the employer is liable for its employees' mental health and must take measures to ensure that they work in a safe environment.
The qualifying period for claims concerning harassment is five years before the civil court and three years before the criminal court.
In case of litigation, the Macron mandatory scale of wrongful dismissal damages does not apply where dismissal occurred in the event of harassment.
What is the position in relation to whistleblowing?
A general legal framework is set for the protection of whistleblowing employees. Penal provisions are set by the Law on Transparency, the Fight Against Corruption and the Modernisation of Economic Life 2016, which establishes a general framework for the protection of persons – particularly employees – who produce an alert complying with the conditions set out in this text. A 19 April 2017 decree exposes the regime of the protective status of whistleblowers, recalling:
- the definition of a ‘whistleblower’;
- the stages of the alert procedure to be respected (especially in a company) in order to benefit from the protective status; and
- the extent of this protection.
The Data Protection Authority (CNIL) has adopted a new deliberation repealing and replacing Deliberation 2005/305 relating to a single authorisation for the automatic processing of personal data implemented as part of the whistleblowing mechanisms (AU-004). Following the entry into force of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2016, as of 25 May 2018 the single authorisations adopted by the CNIL no longer have legal value. Pending the production of GDPR benchmarks, the CNIL has decided to keep them accessible to enable process managers to guide their first compliance actions.
Since 2018, companies with at least 50 employees must establish a whistleblowing procedure specifying the way in which a whistleblower's information is dealt with and employees must be informed of the procedure.
Generally, any retaliation against a good-faith whistleblower is prohibited. The dismissal of a good-faith whistleblower for revealing facts that could amount to an offence or a crime is null and void, enabling the employee to ask for their reinstatement. Any abuse of the procedure by an employee can result in the employer taking disciplinary measures against them.
Privacy in the workplace
Privacy and monitoring
What are employees’ rights with regard to privacy and monitoring?
The Law of 20 June 2018 modified the French Data Protection and Civil Liberties Act 1978 in order to bring national law into conformity with the European legal framework. The law allows for the practical implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2016. In particular, it provides the Data Protection Authority with the necessary powers to carry out its missions, in a context marked by the recognition of new rights for citizens and the strengthening of operator liability.
The GDPR provides a broad definition of ‘personal data’, which may be characterised by any information relating to an individual, and extends the obligations of data controllers. The GDPR aims to protect employees' data and provides employees the right to:
- restriction of processing;
- portability; and
To what extent can employers regulate off-duty conduct?
An employee cannot be punished for acts committed in private. However, this principle excludes where a personal fact breaches the employee's duty of loyalty and probity. A personal fact may also, given the functions of the employee and the purpose of the company, cause an objective disorder within it. This disorder (and not the personal fact) can justify ending the employment contract.
Are there rules protecting social media passwords in the employment context and/or on employer monitoring of employee social media accounts?
Employees are subject to an obligation of loyalty and are placed under the legal subordination of their employer. In France, the secrecy of correspondence is protected, including at work.
Employees enjoy the freedom to use social networks outside working hours. However, this freedom is limited if such use gives rise to a contractual or legal breach (eg, the violation of an obligation of confidentiality, the disclosure of confidential information or denigration or harassment) and it has been ruled that a public post on a social network can be used by the employer and does not relate to the employee’s private life.
Employers have the power to regulate employee access to social networks during working time. Employees must use the computer tools that their employer puts at their disposal in a professional manner.
Trade secrets and restrictive covenants
Who owns IP rights created by employees during the course of their employment?
The Intellectual Property Code distinguishes three categories of inventions:
- inventions of missions that fall within the mission entrusted to the employee under the terms of their employment contract;
- attributable off-duty inventions which, while not part of the employee's mission, are linked to the operation of the enterprise; and
- non-attributable non-mission inventions that do not fit into either of the above categories.
In the event of a disagreement between the parties concerning the attribution of the invention or its remuneration, procedures are available before either the National Commission of the Inventions of Employees (CNIS) or the Crown Court.
The author of an intellectual work owns its exclusive IP rights, which are enforceable against all persons, effective from the date of creation. Copyright ownership can be assigned to the employer by written agreement (eg, in the employment contract). Employees retain the moral rights to their work. They are not entitled to additional compensation for a transfer of copyright ownership.
Specific provisions exist for IP rights in software, designs and models.
What types of restrictive covenants are recognised and enforceable?
Employees are bound by a duty of loyalty to their employer, which prevents them from engaging in activities that could be against the employer's interests. Employment contracts can also set out more specific restrictive covenants effective during the course of employment, including:
- a commercial obligation of non-competition;
- the obligation of non-solicitation;
- a non-misappropriation clause;
- a confidentiality clause;
- a professional secrecy clause; or
- an exclusivity clause, which provides that the employee will not take part in any other professional activity, whether compensated or not (excluding part-time employees).
Are there any special rules on non-competes for particular classes of employee?
A non-compete clause must consider whether the employee's role is specialised (ie, the clause must not prevent employees from continuing to work in their professional field). For example, a non-compete clause may validly prohibit a salesperson from the activity of representation as well as any other activity in a competing company, provided that it is necessary to protect the legitimate interests of the enterprise and does not prevent the employee from finding another job, given their training and professional experience. Therefore, the non-compete obligation must be limited in duration and geographical scope and must be financially compensated.
Discipline and grievance procedures
Are there specific laws on the procedures employers must follow with regard to discipline and grievance procedures?
Once an employer believes that there is a valid ground for dismissal, it must hand deliver or send by registered mail with acknowledgement of receipt a letter giving the employee five working days' notice of a meeting. This letter must set out the time and place of the meeting and the employee's right to be accompanied.
The employer must notify the employee of its decision (at the earliest, on the third working day following the meeting) and, where necessary, specify the grounds for dismissal in a letter sent by registered mail with acknowledgement of receipt.
Since the Macron reforms, an employer can clarify the ground of dismissal on its own initiative or at the request of the employee after notification of the letter of dismissal. However, it is not possible to refer to a new ground.
Specific provisions can be provided for by the applicable collective bargaining agreement.
Unions and layoffs
Is your country (or a particular area) known to be heavily unionised?
In 2016 the rate of unionisation in France was 11%. Unionisation is weak in France compared to other EU countries. Across the European Union, the average is 23%.
What are the rules on trade union recognition?
Trade unions are deemed to be representatives when they:
- abide by the fundamental principles of:
- respect of republican values;
- financial transparency;
- significant audience and influence; and
- significant membership;
- have existed for more than two years; and
- have collected at least 10% of the votes at the latest election of works council members.
Trade union representatives are in principle the only representatives with whom an employer may negotiate and enter into collective agreements.
What are the rules on collective bargaining?
A company collective agreement is a written agreement entered into between an employer and one or more trade unions representing employees that have reached a certain level of audience (currently 10%) at the last employee representative elections.
Since the Macron reforms, company collective agreements can address a wider variety of topics, including working time, remuneration or gender equality at work, so as to become the centre of collective negotiation. In certain companies, the employer must negotiate on determined topics every year or every four to five years. In various cases, a company collective agreement can derogate from the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement or even the law.
On 1 May 2018 the cumulative audience of the trade unions necessary to validly sign a company collective agreement increased to 50% of the votes cast during the last employee representative elections (before the Macron reforms, the cumulative audience had to be at least 30%). Specific rules apply if there is no union representative within the company and have changed significantly as a result of the Macron reforms.
Are employers required to give notice of termination?
The parties must observe and cannot waive the required notice periods before an indefinite-term contract is terminated. There are exceptions to this rule (eg, dismissals for gross misconduct). The notice period depends on the employee's length of service.
Employees who are dismissed or made redundant are entitled to pay in lieu of notice if they are not required to observe their notice period.
What are the rules that govern redundancy procedures?
A redundancy is a dismissal for ‘economic grounds’, which the Labour Code defines as:
- economic difficulties;
- technological changes;
- the need to safeguard competitiveness; or
- the total and definitive shut down of a French legal entity.
Since the Macron reforms, this economic rationale has been assessed at the company level in France or under the scope of other companies of threat-group level, within the group companies operating in the same business sector, established on national territory in France. The law has not changed the fact that the group’s situation must be taken into account. It also maintains the reference to the “business sector” of such groups and now indicates how the business sector is characterised.
If an employee challenges their redundancy as unfair dismissal before the courts, the employer must provide evidence of the grounds for redundancy that appear in the dismissal letter.
For collective redundancies, the employer must send a detailed note to the employee representatives for the purpose of the information and consultation process which must:
- explain the grounds for the redundancy; and
- provide evidence of an economic motivation.
The internal redeployment duty has also been modified by the Macron reforms, which have put an end to the duty to search for internal roles within the company’s group abroad. This fundamental requirement is now limited to France alone, albeit still within the group’s perimeter.
The reforms have also lightened the process for proposing redeployment opportunities. The employer may now start by delivering a list of available roles within the group in France only. The employee has 15 days to show interest.
Are there particular rules for collective redundancies/mass layoffs?
Any company with at least 50 employees that is dismissing, for economic reasons, at least 10 employees over 30 days must establish a job preservation plan.
Since 2013, the procedure concerning collective redundancies has been profoundly modified with:
- a choice between a negotiated procedure with the personnel representative’s bodies (leading to the signature of a collective agreement) or a unilateral process;
- a new timeline of procedure; and
- an increased role of the Labour Administration.
The employer must commence a two-stage information and consultation process of the works council, either concurrently or consecutively. The works council has a limited time to consider the project (depending on the number of redundancies contemplated) and give its opinion. The employer must take the works council's opinion into consideration, although it is not binding.
The job preservation plan must contain social support measures in order to minimise the number of redundancies. The local Labour Administration must approve the plan.
When a negotiation takes place, the works council and trade union representatives can be assisted by a chartered accountant on all financial and economic issues in order to properly analyse the economic rationale behind the contemplated collective redundancies. A dedicated expert can also be appointed to analyse the potential consequences of the project on working conditions, health and safety.
Depending on the number of redundancies considered, the works council has between one and four months to give its opinion (unless provided otherwise in the potential collective agreement signed with trade union representatives).
The dismissals can take place only after the decision of the administration on the plan, as well as the failure of the redeployment procedure.
What protections do employees have on dismissal?
Certain employees have varying levels of protection against dismissal, including:
- pregnant women;
- employees on sick leave as a result of a work-related illness or accident; and
- employee representatives.
Pregnant women and employees on sick leave as a result of a work-related illness or accident cannot be dismissed during the protection period set out by the Labour Code.
Employee representatives can be dismissed only if the labour inspectorate authorises it and after having followed a specific process – regardless of the ground for termination.
Jurisdiction and procedure
Which tribunals or courts have jurisdiction to hear complaints?
All issues arising from the execution or termination of an employment contract are in principle submitted to the Employment Tribunal. Its members are appointed among employees and employers by unions, and each tribunal is composed of an equal number of representatives from both sides.
Moreover, specific litigation may be brought to other courts, namely:
- the administrative courts for litigation regarding:
- collective redundancies (for 10 or more redundancies in companies with more than 50 employees over a 30-day period);
- protected employees; or
- the composition of certain employee representative bodies; and
- the high courts for litigation regarding:
- the application of collective agreements;
- the election and composition of certain employee representative bodies;
- the payment of social contributions; or
- work-related accidents and illnesses (in dedicated chambers).
What is the procedure and typical timescale?
The procedure starts with a referral to the labour court by one of the parties. A conciliation hearing is then fixed. The tribunal sets out a schedule for the parties to submit documents so that the parties are in a position to plead the case. Faster deadlines are provided for by the Labour Code in the event of a dispute concerning an economic dismissal or in case of taking action. The timescale of a labour dispute varies depending on the location, as some jurisdictions are more congested than others. On average, a court of appeal decision is obtained after two years.
What is the route for appeals?
The parties have a period of one month from the notification of judgment to appeal. Since 1 August 2016, in the case of an appeal against an employment tribunal judgment, the parties must be represented by a lawyer or union advocate.
There are many tight procedural deadlines. In case of non-compliance with these deadlines, the penalties can have serious consequences. This reform aims to reduce the length of proceedings that makes the judicial system complicated.