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Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for measure FR-2020-13/1028 Updated – measures in France

Adaptation of collective bargaining rules

Adaptation des règles de la négociation collective

Country France , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 25 March 2020 – 10 October 2020
Context COVID-19
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Protection of workers, adaptation of workplace
– Changes in work organisation
Author Frédéric Turlan (IRshare) and Eurofound
Measure added 03 August 2020 (updated 20 January 2022)

Background information

In order to deal with the consequences of the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, several orders have modified the time limits for various social proceedings. Thus, the deadlines for concluding collective agreements have been reduced until 10 October 2020, since the purpose of these agreements is to deal with the economic, financial and social consequences of the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Content of measure

In order to ensure that companies act quickly to deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic, Ordinance No. 2020-306 of 25 March 2020, as amended by Ordinance No. 18044 of 17 April 2020, reduced the legal deadlines for collective bargaining for so-called "COVID-19" agreements, i.e. those concluded to deal with the economic, financial and social consequences of the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic as well as the consequences of the measures taken to limit this spread. This provision covered agreements concluded up to 24 June.

A new Ordinance of 17 June 2020 extends this time reduction measure to COVID-19 agreements concluded up to 10 October 2020.

However, an exception is made for the provision reducing the minimum period from 15 to 5 days for organising staff consultation on a draft employer's agreement in companies with fewer than 11 employees without a trade union delegate. This measure will be repealed from 11 August 2020.

On the other hand, for agreements concluded until 10 October 2020, the period will remain reduced to:

  • eight days for the time limit for trade union organisations to oppose an agreement or a branch agreement of 15 days (C. trav., art. L. 2232-6), for agreements concluded as from 12 March 2020 which have not been notified to the trade union organisations by 17 April;
  • eight days, the period of one month during which trade union organisations may express their wish for consultation of employees with a view to validating an enterprise or establishment agreement signed by the employer and the representative trade union organisations having received between 30 and 50 per cent of the votes cast at the last elections (C. trav., art. L. 2232-12, §. 2);
  • five days, the period of eight days during which the trade union organisations may sign a company or establishment agreement, before it may be submitted to employee consultation (C. trav., art. L 2232-12, §. 3);
  • eight days, the period of one month within which elected representatives who wish to negotiate an agreement in undertakings of at least 50 employees without a trade union delegate and works council must make this known (C. trav. art. L 2232-25-1, para. 2).

The Ministry of Labour has also published a questions-answers circular to clarify the use of visioconference, audioconference and electronic signature in the framework of collective bargaining to ease the negotiation process during the COVID-19 crisis.

Updates

The following updates to this measure have been made after it came into effect.

07 October 2021

The Jean Jaures Foundation has published a study based on 122 responses from employee representatives and management to a questionnaire posted online between April and June 2021, seven monographs of establishments and five interviews with key witnesses from the world of management, trade unions and the administration (see Source). For the authors of the study, "e-social dialogue seems to be able to continue after the crisis provided that it is linked to face-to-face meetings in order to create and maintain the link between all the players in social dialogue". But in the end, it is the question of proximity (between employees and their elected representatives, between central and site representatives) that e-social dialogue and telework raise. "The health crisis has highlighted the need for a social dialogue close to the employees", the authors note. One of the challenges of modern social dialogue will be to combine the new forms of work organisation and social dialogue with this necessary proximity, they conclude.

01 September 2021

Although in 2020 the number of company collective agreements fell slightly compared to the previous year, more than 10,000 texts were related to the COVID-19 health crisis, according to the ministry of Labour (DARES). The largest number concerns working time.

‘In 2020, 10,760 texts concluded at company level, 76% of which were agreements and amendments, related to the COVID-19 health crisis. This represents 13.5% of the texts recorded between March and December’, states the DARES in its study published on 1 September 2021 (see Sources). More specifically, 84% were concluded in the period from March to July 2020, with a significant peak in April. 34% (i.e. 3,600) were concluded by companies with less than 50 employees and 21% (i.e. 2,210) by companies with less than 21 employees. The “COVID agreements” mainly deal with the setting of holidays.

08 July 2021

According to the Annual Review of Collective Bargaining 2020, published on 8 July 2021 by the Ministry of Labour, 'social dialogue has been a real "lever for responding to the health crisis' (see source section). Social dialogue also played a key role in managing the crisis. With more than 70 branch-level agreements concluded specifically to deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic, 49 branch-level agreements on long-term short-working time scheme (APLD) and more than 10,000 company-level agreements, collective bargaining was a powerful lever for facilitating the management of the health crisis and its consequences on work organisation and employment. Thus, while it could have been feared that the health crisis would lead to a confinement of social dialogue, quite the opposite occurred'.

Use of measure

As of 2 July 2020, according to data provided by the Ministry of Labour (DGT), 30 branch-level agreements and 6,848 company-level agreements have been concluded to address the COVID-19 crisis. As of 25 June, the number of company agreements was 5,700, of which 3,000 were signed with trade union delegates; more than 1,000 with a staff representative or an employee mandated by a trade union: more than 1,100 with an elected or non-mandated employee and nearly 500 directly with employees on the basis of an agreement approved by at least two-thirds of the employees.

As in the case of branch agreements, company agreements mainly concern the taking of paid leaves and days of working time reduction, but also the use or not of short-time working with salary maintenance, the payment of an exceptional bonus provided for by the government for employees who continued to work during the health crisis, and the organisation of work.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Employees in standard employment
Workers in non-standard forms of employment
Applies to all businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
No special funding required

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Informed Informed
Form Not applicable Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • No involvement
  • Main level of involvement: Peak or cross-sectoral level

Involvement

Social partners have not been formally consulted, but some of them have been informally consulted.

Views and reactions

Globally social partners have supported the measures aiming to facilitate collective bargaining on COVID-19 issues. The high number of collective agreements signed prove that these measures have supported the social dialogue within companies.

Sources

  • 25 March 2020: Ordonnance n° 2020-306 du 25 mars 2020 relative à la prorogation des délais échus pendant la période d'urgence sanitaire et à l'adaptation des procédures pendant cette même période (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 15 April 2020: Ordonnance n° 2020-427 du 15 avril 2020 portant diverses dispositions en matière de délais pour faire face à l'épidémie de covid-19 (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 17 April 2020: Circulaire questions-réponses sur le dialogue social (travail-emploi.gouv.fr)
  • 17 June 2020: Ordonnance n° 2020-737 du 17 juin 2020 modifiant les délais applicables à diverses procédures en matière sociale et sanitaire afin de faire face aux conséquences de la propagation de l'épidémie de covid-19 (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 08 July 2021: Bilan de la négociation collective 2020 (travail-emploi.gouv.fr)
  • 01 September 2021: Les accords d’entreprises liés à la crise sanitaire en 2020 (dares.travail-emploi.gouv.fr)
  • 07 October 2021: E-Dialogue ou nouvelles pratiques durables (www.jean-jaures.org)

Citation

Eurofound (2020), Adaptation of collective bargaining rules, measure FR-2020-13/1028 (measures in France), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/FR-2020-13_1028.html

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