News & Events

A Landmark Reform of France’s Labour Law: Flexibility vs. Security, A Win-Win Arrangement?

Submitted By Firm: Fromont Briens

Contact(s): Sophie Pelicier Loevenbruck


Sophie Pelicier Loevenbruck

Date Published: 5/24/2013

Article Type:

Share This:

The unemployment level in France is currently at its highest since 1997, culminating at almost 11%, representing a total of 3,224,600 unemployed as of March 2013.

A “flexicurity” agreement was reached on January 11, 2013 after more than 4 months of intense negotiations between labour unions and business leaders to overhaul France’s notoriously rigid Labour Code.

This agreement, known under the acronym ANI (or “Accord National Interprofessionnel”), which can be defined as a national and all industries-wide collective bargaining agreement that is per se enforceable to almost every employer, significantly modifies crucial aspects of French labour law with a view to simultaneously making it more flexible and granting new rights to French workers. The agreement served as the basis for a new flexicurity bill that was recently passed on May 14, 2013. Although this piece of legislation is currently being examined by the French constitutional council (“Conseil constitutionnel”), the reform should be final in the very near future.

The securing of employment first results from granting more flexibility to the employer through various measures: job safeguarding arrangements (or “accords de maintien dans l’emploi”), internal mobility frameworks, a deeply renovated procedure to implement massive layoffs and partial activity.

Job safeguarding arrangements (“accords de maintien dans l’emploi”)

A new legislative provision now allows employers facing serious temporary economic difficulties to negotiate with unions to reduce working hours and the corresponding employee wages for up to 2 years, in exchange for job security and to reduce potential lay offs. Such an adjustment can also be achieved by increasing the working time without any raise.

In other words, the employer and the unions must necessarily negotiate a collective agreement that would enable the employer to rearrange working time and wages in exchange for a commitment to safeguard jobs of the affected employees for the duration of the agreement (at least).

The employee must therefore give his consent for such an agreement to be enforceable against his own individual employment contract. If he refuses, his dismissal will be considered as an individual dismissal with economic cause. The job safeguarding agreement must necessarily contain measures aimed at limiting the consequences of these contract terminations.

Internal mobility

The statute also makes it possible to negotiate the organisation of the professional or geographical mobility of the employee inside the company, as long as said mobility is not caused by a layoff plan project. Such a possibility clearly departs from previous case law, according to which geographical mobility constituted a modification of the employment contract if it were to take place outside certain limits (known as “zone géographique”), thereby requiring the consent of the worker. Now, the social partners are able to negotiate in order to delineate these geographical limits.

If the employee accepts the mobility, any contrary clause included in his individual employment contract will be considered unenforceable, as is the case with the “accord de maintien dans l’emploi”. Similarly, if the employee refuses, his dismissal will be considered as an individual dismissal with economic cause. The agreement should provide for measures to limit the consequences of such terminations for the employees.

Partial activity

In order to simplify the resort to partial activity during an economic crisis and to limit layoffs as much as possible, workers will be declared to be in partial activity after having received authorization from the administrative authorities, if they undergo a wage reduction due to a temporary closure of part of or the whole company, or if they undergo a reduction in their working time bringing the latter to a level below the legal limit.

New procedure to implement massive layoffs

The securing of employment, one of the stated goals of this statute, results from both stricter pre-defined deadlines, allowing the decisions to be made up-front, and from a deep reform of the procedure to set massive layoffs in motion.

To implement massive layoffs (dismissals of at least 10 employees within a 30-day period in a company of over 50 employees), companies can now choose between two processes:

  • negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with the unions that received at least 50% of the workers’ votes during the professional elections;
  • a unilateral implementation of a “social plan” to be ratified by the French administrative authorities (DIRECCTE).


Regarding the job security component of this piece of legislation, the securing of employment that is expected to result from this statute calls for the creation of new rights to benefit the workers (such as an “individual vocational training account”, external mobility frameworks, rechargeable rights to the national unemployment insurance, additional healthcare and social welfare cover generalisation, a stricter regulation of part-time work).

An individual vocational training account

In order to facilitate an employee’s access to vocational training, any worker, regardless of his age or status, will benefit from an individual training account as soon as he enters the labour market. Social partners have provided for this account to be transferable should the employee change employers or become unemployed. This account will be credited yearly for at least 20 hours per full-time worker.

External mobility

The bill aims at fostering employee mobility, allowing them to “take away” certain rights with them. Therefore, in companies and groups of over 300 employees, any employee that can justify at least 24 months of seniority can benefit from a voluntary and secured period of mobility, with the consent of his employer. His contract will be suspended during that period, therefore allowing the worker to practice in another company with a view to developing his skills.

Part-time work

The statute provides for a stricter framework regulating the use of part-time work when the latter does not proceed from the employee’s decision. Starting January 1, 2014, the minimal weekly working time will be set at 24 hours, except for workers younger than age 26 pursuing their studies. This limit, however, can be lowered at the written demand of the worker or through a collective agreement.

Rechargeable rights to the national unemployment insurance

To encourage the unemployed to resume going back to work, the law now makes it possible for a worker returning to work after a period of unemployment to retain the remainder of his rights to unemployment insurance. This provision allows the worker to add these rights to newly acquired rights if he were to lose his job again.

Additional healthcare and social welfare cover generalisation

A mandatory additional healthcare and social welfare cover will have to be set up before January 1, 2016, allowing the worker to be reimbursed for costs incurred by accidents, maternity, or sickness, therefore further securing the employee’s job or transition period in between jobs and during a subsequent job search.

By granting more flexibility to the employer, this reform has, at the same time, lessened the binding force of the individual contract of the worker when its provisions conflicts with those of a collective agreement and strengthened the role of such agreements when faced with legal provisions. Even though a small number of uncertainties remain, the text definitely creates new opportunities. It is now up to the industries and the companies to prepare in order to face the deadlines established by this new law.

Find an Employment Lawyer

View or print a complete ELA member list »

Client Successes

Altra Industrial Motion Inc.

Altra Industrial Motion Inc. has multiple locations in the U.S., as well as Central America, Europe, and Asia. The Employment Law Alliance has proved to be a great asset in assisting us in dealing with employment issues and matters in such diverse venues as Mexico, Australia, and Spain. We have obtained excellent results using the ELA network for matters ranging from a multi-state review of employment policies to assisting with individual employment issues in a variety of foreign jurisdictions.

In one instance, we were faced with an employment dispute with a former associate in Mexico that had the potential for substantial economic exposure. The matter had been pending for over a year, and we were not confident in the employment advice we had been receiving. I obtained a referral to the ELA counsel in Mexico, who was able to obtain a favorable resolution of the dispute in only a few days. Based on our experiences with the ELA, we would not hesitate to use its many resources for future employment law needs.

American University in Bulgaria

In my career I have been a practicing attorney, counsel to the Governor of Maine, and CEO of a major public utility. I have worked with many lawyers in many settings. When the American University in Bulgaria needed help with employment litigation in federal court in Syracuse, New York, we turned to Pierce Atwood, the ELA member we knew and trusted in Maine, for a referral. We were extremely pleased with the responsiveness and high quality of service we received from Bond Schoeneck & King, the ELA's firm in upstate New York. I would not hesitate to recommend the ELA to any employer.

David T. Flanagan
Member of Board of Trustees 

Arcata Associates

I really enjoyed the Conducting an Effective Internal Investigation in the United States webinar.  We are in the midst of a rather delicate employee relations issue in California right now and the discussion helped me tremendously.  It also reinforced things that you tend to forget if you don't do these investigations frequently.  So, many, many thanks to the Employment Law Alliance for putting that webinar together.  It was extremely beneficial.

Lynn Clayton
Vice President, Human Resources

Barrett Business Services, Inc.

I recently participated in the ELA-sponsored webinar on the Employee Free Choice Act.  I was most impressed with that presentation.  It was extremely helpful and very worthwhile.  I have also been utilizing the ELA's online Global Employer Handbook.  This compliance tool is absolutely terrific. 

I am familiar with several other products that purport to provide up-to- date employment law information and I believe that this resource is superior to other similar compliance manuals.  I am delighted that the ELA provides this free to its members' clients.

Boyd Coffee Company

Employment Law Alliance (ELA) has provided Boyd Coffee Company with a highly valued connection to resources, important information and learning. With complex operations and employees working in approximately 20 states, we are continually striving to keep abreast of specific state laws, many of which vary from state to state. We have participated in the ELA web seminars and have found the content very useful. We appreciate the ease, cost effectiveness and quality of the content and presenters offered by these web seminars.  The Global Employer Handbook has provided our company with a very helpful overview of legal issues in the various states in which we operate, and the network of attorneys has helped us manage issues that have arisen in states other than where our Roastery and corporate headquarters are located in Portland, Oregon.

Capgemini Outsourcing Services GmbH

As an international operating outsourcing and consulting supplier Capgemini has used firms of the Employment Law Alliance in Central Europe. We were always highly satisfied with the quality of employment law advice and the responsiveness. I can really recommend the ELA lawyers.

Hirschfeld Kraemer

As an employment lawyer based in San Francisco, I work closely with high tech clients with operations around the globe. Last year, one of my clients needed to implement a workforce reduction in a dozen countries simultaneously. And they gave me 48 hours to accomplish this. I don't know how I could have pulled this off without the resources of the ELA. I don't know of any single law firm that could have made this happen. My client received all of the help they needed in a timely fashion and on a cost effective basis.

Stephen J. Hirschfeld

Hollywood Entertainment Corporation

As the Vice President for Litigation & Associate General Counsel for my company, I need to ensure that we have a team of top-notch employment lawyers in place in every jurisdiction where we do business. And I want to be confident that those lawyers know our business so they don't have to reinvent the wheel when a new legal matter arises. With more than 3400 stores and 35,000 employees operating in all 50 U.S. states and across Canada, we rely on the ELA to partner with us to help accomplish our objectives. I have been delighted with the consistent high quality of the work performed by ELA lawyers. I encourage other in-house counsel to use their services, as well.

Ingram Micro

Ingram Micro is the world's largest technology distributor, providing sales, marketing, and logistics services for the IT industry around the globe. With over 13,000 employees working throughout the U.S. and in 35 international countries, we need employment lawyers who we can count on to ensure global legal compliance. Our experience with many multi-state and multi-national law firms is that their employment law services are not always a high priority for them, and many do not have experts in many of their offices. The ELA has assembled an excellent team of highly skilled employment lawyers, wherever and whenever I need them, and they have proven to be an invaluable resource to our company.

Konami Gaming

Our company, Konami Gaming, Inc., is growing rapidly in a very diverse and highly regulated industry. We are aggressively entering new markets outside the domestic U.S., including Canada and South America. I have had the recent opportunity to utilize the services provided by the ELA. The legal advice was both responsive and professional. Most of all, the entire process was seamless since our Nevada attorney coordinated the services and legal advice requested. I look forward to working with the ELA in the future, as it serves as a great resource to the legal community.

Jennifer Martinez
Vice President, Human Resources

Nikkiso Cryo, Inc.

Until recently, I was unaware of the ELA's existence. We have subsidiaries and affiliates throughout the United States, as well as in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. When a recent legal issue arose in Texas, our long-time Nevada counsel, who is a member of the ELA, suggested that this matter be handled by his ELA colleague in Dallas. We are very pleased with the quality and timeliness of services provided by that firm, and we are excited to now have the ELA as an important asset to help us address employment law issues worldwide.

Palm, Inc.

The ELA network has been immensely important to our company in helping us address an array of human resources challenges around the world. I strongly encourage H.R. executives who have employees located in many different jurisdictions to utilize the ELA's unparalleled expertise and geographic coverage.

Stacy Murphy
Former Senior Director of Human Resources

Rich Products

As the General Counsel for a company with 6,500 employees operating across the U.S. and in eight countries, it is critical that I have top quality lawyers on the ground where we do business. The ELA is an indispensable resource. It has taken the guesswork out of finding the best employment counsel wherever we have a problem.

Jill K. Bond
Senior Vice President/General Counsel, Shared Services and Benefits

Ricoh Americas Corporation

We have direct sales and service offices all over the U.S., but have not necessarily had the need in the past for assistance with legal work in every state where we have a business presence. From time to time, we suddenly find ourselves facing a legal issue in a state where we have no outside counsel relationship. It has been a real benefit to know that the ELA has assembled such an impressive team of experts throughout the U.S. and overseas.

A few years ago, we faced a very tough discrimination lawsuit in Mississippi. We had never had to retain a lawyer there before. I was absolutely delighted with the Mississippi ELA firm. We received an excellent result. They will no doubt handle all of our employment law matters in Mississippi in the future. I have also obtained the assistance of several other ELA firms around the U.S. and have received the same outstanding service. The ELA is a tremendous resource for our company.

Roberts-Gordon LLC

Our affiliated companies have used the Employment Law Alliance in connection with numerous acquisitions, and have always been extremely pleased with our ability to obtain the highest quality legal advice on due diligence issues from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We have found the Employment Law Alliance firms to be not only first rate with respect to their legal advice but also responsive and timely in assisting us with federal and state law issues critical to our due diligence efforts. We consider the Employment Law Alliance to be an important part of our team.

Rockwell Collins, Inc.

We have partnered with many ELA firms on the development and execution of case management strategies with very positive results. We have been very pleased with the legal advice and counsel provided by the law firms we have utilized who are affiliated with the Employment Law Alliance. The ELA firms we have worked with are customer focused, responsive, and thorough in their approach to handling labor and employment law matters.

Elizabeth Daly
Assistant General Counsel


Sanmina-SCI has facilities strategically located in key regions throughout the world. Our customers expect that we will provide them with the highest quality and most sophisticated services in the marketplace. We have that same expectation for the lawyers with whom we do business. With operations in 17 countries, we need to be certain that we have a team of lawyers working together to address our employment law needs worldwide. The ELA has delivered exactly what it promised-- seamless and consistent high quality services delivered in each locale around the globe. It has quickly become a key asset for our human resources department.


We own, manage, and franchise hotels throughout the U.S. and in more than 90 countries. With more than 145,000 employees worldwide, ensuring that we comply with the complex web of local labor and employment laws in every one of these jurisdictions is a daunting task. The Employment Law Alliance has served as an important resource for us and we have benefited greatly from its expertise and long reach. When a legal dispute or issue has arisen in some far-flung place, Employment Law Alliance lawyers have always provided responsive, practical, and cost-effective assistance.

Wilmington Trust Corporation

Wilmington Trust has used the ELA to locate firms in California, Washington State, Georgia, and Europe. Our experience with the ELA lawyers with whom we have worked has always been one of complete satisfaction and prompt, practical advice.

Michael A. DiGregorio
General Counsel