It’s back-to-school time: the French legislature has prepared a few surprises for you in labor law!

The Law of August 4, 2014—named in reference to true equality between men and women in France—contains measures aiming to favor workplace equality, ensure parity, and provide for a balance between private and professional life. Decrees are in preparation to provide a framework for the application of certain measures, but notwithstanding this it should be mentioned that since August 6, the following have become mandatory:

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  • Reinforced negotiation: In companies having one or more representative unions, career paths and employee diversity between men and women must now be negotiated. This will take place within the framework of negotiations combining two annual negotiation sessions that until this time were separate: one to eliminate differences in compensation between men and women in Article L. 2242-7 of the Labor Code and the other on the professional equality objectives of Article L. 2242-5. Together these will be part of the mandatory annual negotiations.

Another change relates to the report on the comparative situation between men and women provided to elected employee representatives for these negotiations, which must now include the following information (in companies with fewer than 300 employees, these elements are part of the report on the economic situation of the company prepared by the employer):

  • wage differentials
  • career paths of men and women according to age, qualification, and seniority
  • changes in respective promotion rates by discipline in the company
  • an analysis providing for evaluation of the respective situation of men and women in matters of occupational safety and health.

Note: a new sanction will justify the mobilization of HR services. Employers who fail to fulfill these negotiation obligations will be prohibited from bidding on government procurement contracts!

  • Extended professional training on company diversity: Activities will now need to be led to promote diversity in the workplace, raise awareness about fighting sexist stereotypes, and promote professional equality between men and women.
  • An immediate response to harassment: An employer who becomes aware of a situation of sexual harassment in the company must end it and punish those responsible, not just take measures to prevent such situations as it used to be his sole obligation before.
  • Authorizations for more absences: In addition to four days of paid leave in the case of a civil union, as for marriage, the right to an authorized absence has been created for workers whose spouse is pregnant, in order to attend three obligatory medical exams for check-ups during pregnancy.
  • Increased protection against dismissal of fathers during the four weeks following a birth: The father of a child cannot be dismissed during this period. Only gross negligence or the inability to uphold the contract for a reason other than this birth can be grounds for dismissal.
  • Defined contents of a meeting following parental leave: This meeting provided for in Article L.1225-57 of the Labor Code shall henceforth be used to organize the employee’s return to work as pertains to:
    • Determination of the employee’s training needs
    • Examination of any impact of this leave on compensation or career path

Upon the employee’s request, the meeting will be held prior to the end of parental leave.

State family benefits will also be modified as of October 1, 2014, to encourage the sharing of parental leave between the two parents. Please recall that the Government has set the goal of increasing fathers’ participation in parental leave from 18,000 today to 100,000 in 2017.

But that’s not all!

The bill was in fact censured in two aspects due to pure procedural issues (the amendments to them were presented too late). We will therefore soon see the return of two provisions that had to be removed from the Law of August 4, 2014, and which aim to give more severe punishment for dismissals violating the principle of non-discrimination, due to sexual harassment or upon the announcement of a pregnancy within the 15 days following dismissal:

  • Compensatory payment amounting to no less than the employee’s wages over the previous 12 months (plus dismissal compensation and payment of the wages that would have been paid during the period between dismissal and the definitive court decision). 
  • Reimbursement by the employer of a portion of unemployment benefits paid by the State unemployment agency to the dismissed employee (a measure that already exists for other cases of dismissal).

Happy back-to-school!