Extension of the scope of the existing unique representative body
In companies employing less than 200 employees, it was up to now possible to set up a single employees’ representative body called the “délégation unique du personnel”, the staff delegates being considered as also carrying out the duties of members of the works council (WC). The “Rebsamen” law offers this possibility for companies employing up to 300 employees, and provides that the health and security committee may also be included into such single body.
The functioning of such institution is also clarified and simplified in particular through a reduction of the number of its mandatory meetings, a creation of a single agenda, the implementation of maximum timeframes to deliver its opinions or the possibility of carrying out a joint expertise.
A new joint representative body for companies of at least 300 employees
The “Rebsamen” law establishes an option for such companies to merge the WC, staff delegates and health and security committee (or only two of these bodies) into a single representation body. Such possibility must be provided by a specific collective agreement signed at the company’s level with majority unions, which could also set modalities of functioning of this body (subject to certain limits).
Upgrading of the employees’ representatives meetings
The “Rebamen” law authorizes the employer to hold the meetings of the employees’ representatives through videoconference, subject to certain limits. Joint meetings will also be authorized, to combine various representative bodies in a single meeting.
Also, the recording and stenography of the debates during the WC meetings are now officially permitted. The timeframe and modalities of preparation of the WC meetings’ minutes are to be determined by agreement, or by decree (to be published) if no agreement is reached.
Streamlining the works council’ information and consultation procedures
The previous 17 recurrent obligations to inform and/or consult with the WC will be combined into 3 annual consultations concerning the strategic orientations, the economic and financial situation and the social policy, working conditions and employment situation. The WC can be assisted by a chartered accountant remunerated by the company during these three consultations. Also, it will no longer need to be consulted regarding draft collective agreements / amendments and termination of such agreements.
A collective agreement entered into at company level may set specific rules regarding the running of the WC (frequency of the meetings, modalities of preparation of the minutes, modalities of information and consultation and maximum timeframes for the delivery of its opinion).
Finally, the thresholds effects are mitigated as the employer will benefit from a specific period to comply fully with the recurrent information and consultation obligations when it crosses the staff number thresholds triggering the obligation to elect a WC (50 employees) or additional obligations towards the WC (300 employees). The suppression of the WC in case of reduction in the staff number is also simplified.
New rules on appropriate levels of consultation
In situation of coexistence of both a central WC and WCs in each establishment of the company, the establishments’ WC will only be consulted where a specific project requires adaptation measures specific to the establishment. In such cases, the opinion of each establishment WCs will be communicated to the central WC within a timeframe to be fixed by decree.
Amendments regarding the consultation of the health and safety committee
Up to now, when a project was common to several of the company’s establishments, the employer could set up a coordination body in charge of carrying out a single expertise for the account of the different health and safety committees concerned by the project (“ICCHSCT”). However, the employer still needed to obtain the opinion of each health and safety committees concerned on the project.
The “Rebsamen” law has created a similar regime as this provided for the central WC and the establishments’ WC, providing that only the ICCHSCT needs to be consulted on the adaptation measures common to the different establishments, the local health and safety committees being only consulted with on the adaptation measures specific to their establishment.
Finally, the ICCHSCT and the health and safety committee will be subject to specific timeframes for their consultation. Failure to provide an opinion on a project will be deemed to constitute a negative opinion. Such timeframes will be determined through a collective agreement or, in the absence of union delegates, through an agreement between the employer and the committee. In the absence of such agreements, the timeframes will be those fixed by decree (to be published).
Simplification of the negotiation of collective agreements
The various obligations to negotiate with unions will be combined into 3 negotiation themes. Moreover, a collective agreement signed at the company’s level with majority unions may adapt (within certain limits) the negotiation rules applicable to such mandatory negotiations, especially with respect to the frequency of the negotiations.
Furthermore, the “Rebsamen” law creates additional flexibility on negotiation of collective agreement in companies without union representatives, by opening more widely the negotiation with employees’ representatives or with an employee mandated by a representative trade union.
Promotion of the exercise of employees’ or unions’ representatives duties
Various provisions have been enacted by the “Rebsamen” law regarding employees’ and unions’ representatives. Certain representatives dedicating a substantial number of hours to their mandate(s) will benefit from a guarantee of evolution of remuneration, and to meetings with the employer when starting / ending their mandates.
Health and safety at the workplace and fixed-term employment contracts
The “Rebsamen” law provides that business related burn-outs may now be recognized as an occupational disease following the results of an individual expertise.
The procedure applicable to dismissal for physical inability is also amended. In case of physical inability caused by an occupational accident or disease, the employer will be exempted from its reclassification obligation provided that the occupational health physician expressly indicates that maintaining the employee within the company would be seriously harmful to his/her health.
Finally, the “Rebsamen” law also makes more flexible the use of fixed-term employment contracts by allowing the employer to renew such contract twice instead of one, the maximum durations for such contract being unchanged.