The so-called 'Macron ordinances' overhauled the Labour Code in September 2017. One of the main effects was the introduction of a schedule of damages in French labour law, whereby a judge can award damages for unfair dismissal only within certain limitations depending on the employee's seniority. While some lower courts have applied the new law, an increasing number of courts are challenging it on the basis that it would be contrary to international law.
While French employment law has a reputation for being strict, judges have only recently been faced with the challenge of determining whether individuals who work for digital platforms are employees of said platforms or self-employed. As France has been somewhat reluctant to address the employment status of digital platform workers and has issued only a few pieces of legislation in this regard, recent decisions on platform workers' employment status have garnered significant interest.
In recent years, the Court of Cassation and the courts of appeal have ruled in several cases relating to inappropriate or offensive Facebook comments made by employees against their colleagues, managers or employers. However, an analysis of the rulings shows that the courts remain hesitant to establish a legal framework to govern the various, fast-changing facets of this particular social network.
The Modernisation of the Labour Market Act recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. The act introduced a legal procedure for terminating employment contracts by mutual agreement that has proven successful over time. No fewer than 36,600 mutual termination agreements were signed in May 2018 alone, an increase of more than 5.5% compared to the previous month. However, despite their relative simplicity and flexibility, mutual termination agreements are far from perfect.
The new majority in Parliament has announced, and in some cases already enacted, many changes. Among them, those dealing with employees' representatives are important, as they reshape a significant part of the Labour Code. While these changes are not expected to radically alter industrial relations in the workplace immediately, some of the major modifications and their general characteristics are worth highlighting.
Since the Harvey Weinstein case, French society has been shaken by a social media movement in which #balancetonporc ("denounce your pig") has prompted a frenzy of reactions, from women revealing incidents that they had previously kept to themselves to false accusations and endless debate regarding what is considered as offensive. The recent spotlight on this issue provides an opportunity to describe the system in place for cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Since 2016 the government has modified the law on economic dismissal on several points. Under French labour law, any economic dismissal must be justified by actual and serious grounds. Among other recent changes, the introduction of the El Khomri Law has clarified the definition of 'economic motivation' to take into account the Court of Cassation's case law and added two new reasons to the list of economic grounds under the Labour Code.
The new government has upheld its promise to reform French labour law and enacted five ministerial orders, one of which is dedicated to the so-called 'visibility and securing of working relationships'. In particular, a damages scale, which will be mandatory for the judge and parties, will be introduced to provide security and clarity regarding the consequences of potential litigation. This scale, through the predictability that it provides, is meant to remove uncertainty and allow the creation of jobs.