With effect from 2 July 2014*, the French tribunal procedures in relation to constructive dismissal claims (prise d’acte) are amended with the effect of speeding up the substantive hearing date of constructive dismissal actions brought by employees.

Instead of the usual two-stage process of conciliation hearing, followed by a substantive hearing – often taking 12-24 months or more in practice from the date the employee files the claim, the Tribunal will now immediately list prise d’acte constructive dismissal claims for a substantive hearing within one month of the date the claim is filed under a fast-track procedure (missing out the formal conciliation stage).

What this means for employers in France:

  • Employees’ claims for prise d’acte constructive dismissal will be heard much faster – the employer will have a much shorter period of time to prepare its case in defence. If therefore any potential constructive dismissal claims appear to be on the cards, it is advisable to ensure as far as possible that you are ready to try and defend these.
  • This may encourage employees to use the prise d’acte procedure rather than the résiliation judiciaire procedure – which may be an advantage for employers (as under the prise d’acte procedure the employee terminates the contract alleging constructive dismissal, whereas under the résiliation judiciaire procedure the employee can claim constructive dismissal whilst remaining in employment, and continues to receive salary in the normal way, pending the Tribunal hearing, which can be some months away. In this sense résiliation judiciaire procedure is practically a “no-risk” option for the employee and can be very difficult for the employer to manage on a practical basis, giving rise to continued remuneration costs plus the risk of termination payments and a damages claim.

* Following law n° 2014-743, 1 July 2014