On 11 April 2014, we published an Alert concerning a new addendum to the SYNTEC National Collective Bargaining Agreement in France.  This change generated extensive worldwide media coverage, including reports that the agreement “involved a million French employees”, that working after 6pm “had become illegal” and that French employees were now “forced to switch off their phones” after this time, etc. 

As we flagged in our Alert, the new addendum does not mean that all French employees have to “switch off” after 6pm, but it does have implications for French employers, and not just those who are members of the two federations that have already signed the new addendum. 

To supplement our post of 2 May http://www.employmentlawworldview.com/french-disconnection-2-the-next-instalment/, we set out below a summary of the recent changes, together with the steps that French employers should be taking now to deal with the new addendum.

  1. The SYNTEC National Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) applies to all   employees of companies governed by it, and in particular to a specific category of executive-level employee with a “forfait jour” (a flat rate salary for working a fixed number of days – 218 – per year).
  2. The new addendum to the existing SYNTEC CBA was introduced on 1 April 2014 in response to the French Supreme Court’s ruling in April 2013 that the existing agreement on employees with a “forfait-jour” was not compliant with EU law requirements, in particular that it did not adequately protect the health and safety of employees.
  3. The new addendum has introduced various additional health and safety measures.  For example, although it does not prohibit employees from checking their work emails after 6pm, it does state that employees must “disconnect” from remote working devices (e.g. mobile telephones, laptops, tablets, email, etc.) during rest periods and that employers should put in place the necessary measures to ensure employees are able to do this.  What it means by “necessary measures” is currently unclear, but it is likely to mean such things as changing internal rules to prohibit managers from sending emails which require an immediate response after a certain time (e.g. 6pm), unless there are health and safety reasons for doing so.   “Disconnection” must be taken as meaning the lack of an obligation to pay attention to your emails etc. at a particular time, rather than anything technical or electronic.
  4. For companies that are governed by the SYNTEC CBA: This new addendum is only binding for companies that are members of the SYNTEC organisation.  It is important that they take steps now to comply with the new addendum, e.g. putting in place measures to ensure that employees “disconnect” from remote working devices during rest periods.  Under the terms of the CBA, they have only 6 months within which to put in place these additional health and safety measures. Once the addendum is extended by the Ministry of Labour, it will become binding for all companies who apply the SYNTEC CBA, even if they are not members of the SYNTEC organisation
  5. For other French companies: It is probably only a matter of time before the provisions in the new addendum are replicated in other national, regional or in-house collective bargaining agreements, as they too are arguably not currently compliant with French case law.  It would therefore be advisable for other French companies to start thinking now about what changes may need to be introduced to ensure compliance.   
  6. For practical advice on implementing these changes in your organisation, please contact Jean-Marc Sainsard in our Paris office.