19.03.2020Myriam de Gaudusson, Patrick Thiébart, Silvia Rumanescu

Alert Coronavirus n°2 – French Bill on Covid-19 pandemic

As the health crisis that France is going through is of an unprecedented scale, the French Government presented, on 18 March 2020, three bills to the Council of Ministers. One of them is of particular interest as it is an “emergency bill to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic”, the primary objective of which is to preserve jobs and limit the emergence of precarious situations among employees.

With respect to social measures, and within three months of the publication of the future law, the Government will be authorized to take any measure aimed at:

  • dealing with the economic, financial and social consequences of the spread of the Covid-10 virus;
  • limiting the spread of the virus;
  • limiting business shutdowns and, consequently, limiting layoffs.

To this end, the Government undertakes to support “companies’ cash flow” and to provide them with “direct or indirect aid” by setting up a fund financed in part by the local and regional authorities.

The procedures for allocating daily social security benefits will be reviewed in order to take into account situations of “serious and exceptional health risk, in particular pandemics” and to compensate employees forced to take leave to care for their children under 16 years of age.

With regard to labour law, the Government confirms its intention to facilitate recourse to short-time working by extending its benefit to new categories of beneficiaries, including self-employed and part-time employees.

Since taking paid leave is a tool that should not be neglected in dealing with this unprecedented crisis, the Government intends to change the way paid leave is taken. In this respect, employers will be able to impose and modify the dates on which paid holidays are taken by circumventing current legal and conventional provisions.

Another envisaged measure is to allow derogations from the rules on working hours and rest periods in those fields that are “particularly necessary for the security of the nation or the continuity of economic and social life“.

Profit-sharing is another important economic tool that can help companies to resume a sustainable business in the aftermath of the crisis. The terms and conditions for the payment of profit-sharing and incentive payments may be modified to allow companies to defer their payment.

Elections to measure the representativeness of trade union organizations in small and medium enterprises will be postponed and the terms of office of judges in labour courts will be extended, as will the terms of office of members of joint regional inter-professional commissions.

The Government also intends to modify:

  • the modalities of exercising occupational health services in order to ensure the best possible monitoring of employees’ health;
  • the procedures for informing and consulting the staff representatives to enable them to issue opinions within the prescribed time frames;
  • the provisions relating to vocational training to enable enterprises maintain their certification and authorisation and to manage training costs as effectively as possible;
  • the arrangements for payment between companies, in particular as regards penalties for late payment;
  • the procedures for using insolvency and bankruptcy protection for companies in difficulty in order to “facilitate the preventive action to deal with the consequences of the health crisis”;

Concurrently, the Government is proposing the adoption of provisional measures concerning the is proposing. In order to limit the spread of the pandemic, the Government may adopt the following measures:

  • to adapt the deadlines for all administrative procedures and those relating to the implementation of recommendations or time limitation whether of legal, administrative or statutory nature.
  • to adapt and discontinue the deadlines relating to the revocation of a right, approval or authorization requiring validation by the administrative authority.
  • to adapt the rules relating to territorial jurisdiction, procedural deadlines, the hearings, the use of videoconferencing, and the procedures for bringing cases before the courts.

Finally, measures will be taken to simplify the rules relating to the annual general meetings of companies shareholders and companies’ accounts so as to allow them to set time limits adapted to the circumstances.

Franklin’s teams are mobilized to continue to keep you informed in these challenging times. Take care of yourself and your loved ones!