The right to work flexibly under French law is severely constrained by the rules on working time and is mostly limited to employees who are autonomous in terms of the organisation of their work (and do not have to follow collective working hours because of the nature of their position); or those whose working time cannot be predetermined. In either of these two situations, employees do not benefit from the weekly working time of 35 hours and from the daily maximum working time of 10 hours; their working time is counted by days rather than hours, with a limit of 218 days per year.
However, these annual day packages are subject to strict conditions as to the provisions the collective agreement and the employment contract must include. In a landmark case last year, the French Supreme Court decided that the part of the "Syntec" collective bargaining agreement (which covers many technology companies) dealing with annual day packages was not compliant with the health and safety requirements of EU law. If the collective bargaining agreement does not cover all the requirements laid down by the Supreme Court, day packages cannot be entered into with employees unless a company-wide agreement complying with these requirements has been signed. An amendment to the "Syntec" collective bargaining agreement reflecting these new protections was signed on 1 April 2014, prompting much media comment.
Right to request flexible working: part-time work
An employee who has one year's service is entitled to adjust his or her working time to deal with certain events such as the birth or adoption of a child, for a period of one year or less, renewable twice. The employee can apply for childcare leave or for part-time working allowing the employee to reduce working time to a minimum of 16 hours per week to take care of a child under three years (16 years in case of adoption). Under this right, the employee is entitled to return to his or her previous position with the same remuneration at the end of the period of part-time work.
Flexibility for the employer: agreements maintaining employment
More generally, in order to improve labour market flexibility, a Law of 14 June 2013 created the possibility for companies encountering serious short-term difficulties to negotiate with trade unions representatives company-wide agreements allowing a reduction of the working time and/or of the remuneration for a limited period of time of two years maximum. In return for these measures, the employer commits to safeguarding jobs for the length of the company-wide agreement and cannot terminate employees' contracts on economic grounds. However, the implementation of these agreements requires the consent of the affected employees since it modifies their working time and/or their remuneration. If employees refuse this modification, they can be dismissed for economic grounds without the employer being compelled to follow the usual redundancy procedures.