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Friday, 12 October 2012

Simplifying the wonderfully complicated world of French employment law - a possibility?

Ah the madness that is French employment law.

Every evening on Europe 1, journalist David Abiker has a spot called "La geule de l'emploi" in which he takes a look at working France from a number of different angles.

On Thursday's edition he highlighted a one-line bill which Jean-Pierre Decool, a member of parliament for the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) wants to introduce.

It concerns employment law.

You know - the whole body of law and administrative rulings that covers everything and anything to do with the relationship between employer and employee; the contract of employment, minimum wage, working time, health and safety, discrimination....(thank you to someone at Wikipedia)

In short it's supposed to provide rights which will protect an employee from any mistreatment by their employer and regulate the relationship between the two.

Yes it's hard to give a Daily Mail-type summary of something so complicated and of course the French have found a way of making an already complex subject even more confusing.

And because Decool thinks that French employment law is just a little (well actually a lot) out of synch with 21st century requirements, he wants to simplify matters and make the whole area much more - for want of a better word - transparent.

The sheer bulk of legislation is particularly overwhelming for small and medium-side enterprises as far as Decool and probably many others are concerned.

Look at some of the examples he quotes in the introduction to his bill. They need to be treated carefully of course, but Abiker wasn't disputing them during his report.

In 1973 there were 600 articles enshrined in employment law in France. Today there are 10,000.

In Switzerland employment law apparently contains just 54 articles

In France there are, says Decool, currently 30 different forms of a contract of employment. In the United Kingdom there's just one.

In France, if you're fired you have five years to contest your dismissal. In Spain it's apparently just 20 days.

Take a pay slip in France and you'll be faced with 24 lines. In the UK there are just four.

While multinationals can employ armies of lawyers to work their way through the mass of legislation and the small text to ensure they're complying with the law, Decool insists smaller companies simply cannot afford either the time or the money.

And that's not to mention the impact it can have on any foreign investor thinking of setting up shop in France and faced with 10,000 articles with which they have to comply.

On his blog, Abiker helpfully provides a pdf file to Decool's proposal which you can download and read through at your leisure.

He also has a link to a great video from former minister Rama Yade in which she talks about exactly the difference between formulating laws governing employment during her (pre-ministerial) time as an administrator in the Senate and actually putting them into practice...which she has had to do since she joined the private sector to work for a human resources company.

"When I was a Senate administrator I 'made' the law: in other words I assembled all the different elements to produce something that could actually be voted on," she says.

"And I was especially happy when it came to employment law, because I thought I had summarised things pretty well," she continues.

"Now I'm seeing things from the other side and having to put into practice some of those things that I actually wrote and I just have to ask myself, how I could have written what I did  because quite simply some of the things just cannot be applied to the workplace."

Yep, employment law is a very necessary and noble part of any modern day society, but does it really need to be so absurdly complex and confusing as France would appear to have us all believe?

Parliament seems to think so.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, the "code du travail" is an absolute nightmare! I own and run a small chocolate shop in Dordogne, very much like the one that Joanna Harris describes in her book "Chocolat"... which is what gave me the idea in the first place.
The business is rather slow most of the year, but really picks up around Christmas and Easter (it seems French people buy and offer each other chocolates at these times). So during those peaks of activity, I really need help in the shop. I thought I would hire someone just for the few weeks, but never realised how complicated CDDs (short term contracts here in France) are. So in the end, I "hired" my husband Dennis who was not that keen to leave his garden for a chocolate shop.
But that's the proof that it's very difficult to bring unemployment down in this country.


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