Justine Le Ménélec, University of Tours, France

The revisions of the labour law in France continue for years. It took a specific importance for the French people, due to the maintenance of the structural unemployment. These revisions mobilize politics, administrations, and unions, without any results. In this post, I will try to show how Emmanuel Macron, after less than one year of power, tries to straighten the situation in France and which orientation he gives to his labour law.

As a result of the presidential election of Emmanuel Macron, on 7 May 2017 the French government had started a new revision of the Labour Code. This revision was an important election promise of Emmanuel Macron. As a matter of fact, the labour law made by Myriam El Khomri under the presidency of François Hollande has been one of the failures during the ex-president’s five-year plan. During his electoral campaign, Emmanuel Macron had promised to do a new revision of the labour law. The revision procedure had started during the summer following the elections, texts, and provisions have been published in the Official Journal on 23 September 2017. The new president had said that all the measures would take effect before 1 January 2018, only eight months following the elections. The idea of Emmanuel Macron is to encourage the collective negotiations in the companies, what was impossible with the wavy content of the Labour Code before the revision.

The procedure to carry out this revision is a particular one, because it was not the legislator who has made the revision as usual but the Government. The first step was to ask at the Parliament to vote on an empowerment law, the two chambers of the French Parliament had to vote, the Senate and the French National Assembly. This empowerment law permit to the French government to take different legal provisions. The Parliament had voted on this law on 2 August 2017. The text has been presented at the Constitutional Council [Conseil constitutionnel] to verify if it was in conformity with the Constitution. The Constitutional Council has validated the conformity of the project to the constitution without provision the conformity at the Constitution. After this vote, the Government had started to discuss about the provisions it wanted to take, and has presented the final law project on 31 of August 2017. At last, however the text became definitive and has been voted in the Minister Council 22 September 2018. Some measure became effective upon the publication in the Official Journal, whereas the other need a decree implementing to become efficient.

The revision of the labour market

This new revision of the labour Code includes three aspects. The first one is about making a revision of the labour market by the inversion of the norm hierarchy. This inversion has for consequences to give the priority at negotiations in the companies; it gives more impact at negotiations between unions and companies. There are more freedoms given to the employers to negotiate and they have less obligations to follow the rules.

This aspect also includes the restoration of the application of a compulsory compensation scale for the unfair dismissal at the Labour tribunal (tribunal des prud’hommes). Before this revision, two scales existed but the judge had no obligation to follow these scales, they were more illustrative. Now the labour judges have to respect some floor and ceiling to fix the compensation of the employees which contest an unfair dismissal.

This change of labour market includes also the waiver of a law called the Rebsamen law about social floor and the unification of the employee representation. This law has been adopted on 17 August 2015, it is considered as a law which made step back in respect of the employees’ rights, but also the law which did not represent well the small companies and which was anti-feminist.

Unemployment insurance

The second aspect of the revision done by Emmanuel Macron by provisions is about unemployment insurance. These rights have been extended to self-employed and to resigning workers. After the revision, workers who have step down their job can have the compensation: it was not the case before the revision. Before this revision, a person could ask unemployment compensation only if the contract had been following until its end when it was a fixed-term contract or when the person had been fired. Regarding the extension of the unemployment insurance to the self-employed, it means that the Government encourage the people to strike out in an entrepreneurial adventure. So if a person did not have a job because she wants to create her own company and be independent, she can receive the unemployment insurance.

Nevertheless, to extend the ratio personae of this insurance can be complicated, in particular about financial issue. Indeed, if more people need the unemployment insurance, it means that the state pays more money. So, this new revision provides a funding method for unemployment insurance. Emmanuel Macron have decided to fund this extension of the insurance thanks to a generalized social contribution, in France we call this “contribution sociale généralisée” (CSG). This contribution is in reality a tax withdrawn on: salaries, bonus of salaries, patrimonial revenue, retirement pension, unemployment benefit, and investment income on casino games. Following this revision, the taxes will increase. It can be badly perceived, by the workers, to increase a tax on retirement pension and salary to pay unemployment insurance to people who resigned their job. The revision provides also the management modality of the unemployment insurance, which means the exit of the mainstreaming called in French “paritarisme”, i.e. a management modality which provides that the union and the French employers have to be all as well displayed.

The continuing education

The thirds aspect of the labour law revision is about the politics of continuing education. This politic costs to the state 32 billion euros per year. It is valued by the public opinion, as too expensive and a source of waste, while this politics is estimated as inefficient. This revision provides the individualization of the right at the continuing education, it means that each employee has a right to have a continue education which can give new qualification.

This revision did by Emmanuel Macron and his government, which follows the failure of revision of François Hollande, appears under the best auspices. This revision is the object of some critical article by the economical journalism; because some economists have some questions about how can we find the foundation for the unemployment insurance of new people. The revision is not finish yet because some point will be implemented only the 1st of January 2018. We have to see if this revision will be more efficient that all the revisions do before this one. There is a weariness of the French people concerning all the revisions of labour law.