Bredin Prat > Paris, France > Firm Profile
Bredin Prat Offices
53 QUAI D'ORSAY
Bredin Prat > The Legal 500 RankingsBredin Prat is a staple name on the market for litigation work. Building on the firm’s first-class M&A capabilities, the litigation team naturally handles the largest M&A-related disputes, especially in the field of high-profile publicly listed transactions. The practice notably played a front role in the handling of the Suez-Veolia M&A battle. The team’s impressive credentials also earns it mandates in highly sensitive shareholder and governance conflicts pertaining to top companies. Besides corporate litigation, the practice is retained by the largest French and international corporations to assist with their most strategic cases, handling commercial and liability litigation, as well as proceedings mixing civil, criminal, regulatory or major international aspects. For instance, the practice successfully defended a client before French courts in a strategic liability case relating to the use of the ‘agent orange’ chemical gas during the Vietnam war. The practice is co-headed by Jean-Daniel Bretzner, Florian Bouaziz, Sébastien Prat and Eve Duminy; as well as by Didier Martin, who primarily acts in stock-market litigation, and by white-collar crime star Eric Dezeuze. Calmann Bellity, Aurélie Patrelle and Tom Vauthier made counsel in January 2021.
Didier Martin; Eric Dezeuze; Jean-Daniel Bretzner; Florian Bouaziz; Sébastien Prat; Guillaume Pellegrin; Ève Duminy
‘Jean-Daniel Bretzner is undoubtedly one of the stars of business litigation in France, thanks to a rare combination of encyclopedic knowledge in a large number of fields and his ability to develop new lines of thoughts in defence of his clients. He will examine every possible argument, procedural and substantive, leaving absolutely no detail behind. Jean-Daniel changes the dimension of his ‘à la carte’ team, according to the needs and budgetary constraints of the clients; such flexibility is appreciated.’
‘The partners are accessible and available to their clients. They can be reached on the cellphone, which is very practical and makes the relationship smoother.’
‘The team demonstrates its mastery at managing cases through an appropriate distribution of roles, and an ability to mobilise resources to understand subjects at hand.’
‘Great experience and expertise.’
‘The firm is a true heavyweight litigation powerhouse in France. We have dealt with a number of partners and senior associates, and the quality is consistently exceptional.’
‘Florian Bouaziz is a great litigator.’
Rothschild & Co
Stellantis (former PSA)
- Advising Suez in connection with the public offer project launched by Veolia.
- Advising Lactalis in disputes led in different countries against the US based bank Citi Bank, in the context of the bankruptcy of the Italian-based company Parmalat.
- Advised Lagardère in connection with joint demand for seats on its supervisory board issued by Vivendi and activist fund Amber Capital.
Other key lawyers:
Rothschild & Co
- Defending Suez in connection with the public offer project launched by Veolia.
- Advising NJJ press (a company controlled by Xavier Niel, founder of Free) in connection with issues concerning the composition of the share capital of Le Monde group.
- Defended Lagardère in connection with joint demands made for seats to be made available on its supervisory board by Vivendi and activist fund Amber Capital.
Other key lawyers:
- Assisting different entities of the Uber group operating in France with several white-collar criminal cases, and notably Uber France in a pending criminal case that arose after the implementation of the peer-to-peer service named ‘UberPop’ in France and subsequent violent taxi strikes and protests.
- Defending ADP in connection with a litigation procedure relating to an accident which occurred in 2012 at an airport.
France > Employment Tier 1Bredin Prat's highly experienced team is among the strongest in the market. In line with the firm’s thriving M&A practice, the employment team frequently acts in employment matters linked to the firm’s corporate transactions, often ranking among the largest in France and involving publicly listed companies. On a stand-alone basis, the team assists clients with complex collective negotiations and reorganisation projects. It is also solicited for the management of sensitive individual employment matters involving high-ranking executives. High-stakes litigation involving numerous employees is another area of strength, with a dispute arisen from the alleged non-respect of commitments made before the French state in the context of a high-profile M&A transaction a recent example. The group's role as advisor of a leading digital platform concerning business-critical employment status requalification proceedings provided further proof of its excellent reputation. Practice head Pascale Lagesse, Cyril Gaillard and Laëtitia Tombarello make up a strong trio.
Other key lawyers:
Cyril Gaillard; Laetitia Tombarello
‘Availability and skills.’
‘Precision, good synthesis and clarity of the analysis.’
‘Recommendations combining legal and operational efficiency with proposed solutions.’
‘Very fast integration of business issues.’
‘The firm knows how to have a 360° vision of the subjects that concern us. Very good communication between the different teams when the subjects transcend several fields. The team is very responsive, relevant and combative, beyond being very technical on all aspects.’
‘Ultra-responsive; business-oriented, results-oriented. Synthetic and concise with ultra-pragmatic advice.’
China Jianyin Investment (JIC)
- Advised the Vale group in connection with the employment law aspects of the sale by Vale Canada Limited, a Vale subsidiary, of its stake in Vale New Caledonia (VNC).
- Advising Aviva in the context of the employment law aspects of the ongoing sale of Aviva France for €3.2bn to French insurer Aéma Groupe.
- Advising SNCF on the employment aspects of the ongoing sale of its subsidiary Ermewa to a consortium comprising CDPQ and DWS Group.
‘Very nice team led by Igor Simic. High technicality, fine knowledge of French and European authorities. Tailor-made service.’
‘Excellent teams across multiples area of expertise.’
‘Working with Bredin Prat and its competition team is an opportunity. In addition to its excellence, their lawyers are characterised by a high legal quality, the quality of the analysis of situations, their sense of strategy and human qualities.’
‘The partners, and, more particularly, Yelena Trifounovitch, are of great human, intellectual and legal quality. Their availability is remarkable.’
Johnson & Johnson
LVMH – Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy
Stellantis (formerly PSA Peugeot Citroën)
- Advising Suez before the European Commission and the General Court of the European Union as well as national competition authorities worldwide in connection with the €13bn public takeover launched by Veolia.
- Successfully defended Apple before the French Competition Authority, obtaining the dismissal of a request for interim measures aimed at preventing Apple from rolling out Apple’s iOS 14 privacy changes.
- Advised US biotech company Illumina Inc. before the French Competition Authority and the French Supreme Administrative Court (Conseil d’État) in the context of the first request for referral to the European Commission of a merger that did not cross the jurisdictional thresholds.
Other key lawyers:
‘Excellent experience of the partners who participate in market files. High quality of young dynamic and motivated employees.’
‘Patrick Dziewolski has exceptional experience in complex cases, availability and ability to identify solutions.’
‘Exceptional responsiveness and commitment to client service, rare qualities for a firm of this level of reputation. Clarity appreciated in terms of invoicing.’
‘Sophie Cornette de Saint-Cyr, unlike many high-level lawyers in mergers and acquisitions, perfectly masters the financial aspects of subjects, and is very good with investment bankers, which gives her an exceptional double reading of M&A topics. The firm also has a real quality of recruitment and team, which allows to bring a human touch and to create confidence in addition to the remarkable technical mastery.’
‘Good understanding of our expectations, of the corporate culture and search for solutions adapted to our specificities. Efficient billing and collection procedures.’
‘Fluidity and simplicity of exchanges, responsiveness and great availability of interlocutors regardless of the quality of the speaker. Good communication within the team. Outstanding support and advice from Sophie Cornette de Saint Cyr.’
‘From receptionists to name partners, all the teams seem totally dedicated to the success of your project. Nothing seems impossible; everything seems easy. The most complex questions are answered simply, in language understood by all. This apparently easy simplicity is the mark of keen intelligence.’
‘Bredin Prat has an exceptional M&A team supported by strong practices in all areas of the law required to close an M&A deal.’
BPCE / Natixis
Stellantis (formerly PSA Group)
- Advising Suez in connection with the public offer launched by Veolia for €13bn.
- Advised Iliad in connection with its public tender offer for all of the shares making up the capital of the Polish telecom operator, Play, for €3.5bn.
- Advising SNCF on the sale of its subsidiary Ermewa to a consortium consisting of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and a fund managed by DWS Group. The value of the transaction was €3.2bn.
France > Tax Tier 1Bredin Prat’s stellar tax team has first-class expertise in transactional tax. The tax practice frequently works hand in hand with the equally high-profile corporate team and advises on the structuring of the market’s largest public and private transactions. Its client base includes numerous CAC 40 and leading international corporations, as well as leading banks and investment funds. Family offices and private clients also use the firm. The team regularly acts on the market’s most complex and strategic transactions, often of global scale such as assisting PSA (now Stellantis) with its merger with Fiat Chrysler. High-stakes litigation, including disputes challenging tax legislation before courts, is another area of strength. Several tax reassessment cases regarding managers’ incentives or raising key issues such as abuse of law also feature in the caseload. The top-level criminal tax expertise completes the offering. Practice head Yves Rutschmann, Sébastien de Monès, Pierre-Henri Durand and Julien Gayral are all top names on the market. The younger guard led by Anne Robert and Jean-Florent Mandelbaum is also impressive. Counsels Marion Méresse and Franck Morhain and Victor Camatta, who made counsel in January 2022, are also recommended.
Other key lawyers:
‘The team, and in particular Yves Rutschmann and Julien Gayral, have demonstrated great technical expertise, including in new areas such as the tax on digital services. Their analyses, combining rigour, clarity and pragmatism, are invaluable decision-making tools.’
‘Recommended are: Yves Rutschmann, for the ease with which he assesses the challenges of changes in tax law and knows how to translate them into concrete recommendations for his clients; Julien Gayral, for the finesse of his analyses in matters of complex restructuring.’
‘Excellent experience, extremely competent and sharp on the specific and technical aspects of a LBO.’
‘Jean-Florent Mandelbaum is one of the best practitioners of taxation applied to LBOs, with excellent theoretical and practical knowledge, having worked on many very technical files.’
‘Jean-Florent Mandelbaum in particular is to be distinguished by an exceptional mixture of rigour and creativity, and an ability to treat subjects in the smallest details.’
‘Very strong tax technicians who are business-oriented and who therefore deliver great service to their clients.’
‘Sébastien de Mones is one of the best tax lawyers of his generation. Besides being a great technician, his dynamic and business-oriented thinking are a real asset on a deal.’
‘Jean-Florent Mandelbaum is the best tax lawyer of his generation, technical in a field where it is necessary and commercial where others are not, precise both on the texts but also on their spirit.’
China Jianyin Investment (JIC)
Coca-Cola European Partners
Promontoria (My Money Bank)
Stellantis (formerly Groupe PSA)
- Advising Natixis on the tax aspects of its majority shareholder BPCE’s project to acquire the c. 29.3% of Natixis’s capital BPCE does not already own through a proposed public tender offer (€3.7bn).
- Advising Tarkett and the Deconinck Family, as controlling shareholder of Tarkett, on the tax aspects of its simplified tender offer on Tarkett shares.
- Advising China Jianyin Investment (JIC) on the tax aspects of the ongoing sale of SGD Pharma to PAI Partners.
Other key lawyers:
‘This practice is unique because it perfectly combines a very strong expertise and perfect adaptation to the context of each case.’
Bain Private Equity
Maisons du Monde
- Advised Casino Group in connection with (a) the refinancing of its existing term loan B through a secured term loan B and an unsecured high-yield bond for a total amount of €1.525bn and (b) the amendment and extension of its existing secured €2.0bn revolving facility.
- Acted for Alstom on the acquisition of Bombardier Transportation and in connection with the conclusion of an amendment to a credit facility for the issuance of guarantees in order to increase the facility to a maximum amount of €9bn.
- Assisted Iliad in connection with the financing aspects of its public offer for the Polish telecom operator Play (enterprise valued at €3.5bn).
Other key lawyers:
‘Olivier Saba: friendly, very good lawyer, pragmatic.’
‘Efficiency, straight to the point, no unnecessary chatter, availability, pragmatism.’
‘Olivier Saba: very good interpersonal skills, specialist in capital markets, efficient, available. Damien Boulanger: specialist in capital markets. Emmanuel Masset: specialists in stock market law, efficient, available.’
Brasil Warrant S.A.
Lagardère Capital & Management (holding of Lagardère Group)
- Advised PSA as lead counsel in connection with the listing of the new entity PSA-FCA (merger of Peugeot SA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) on Euronext Paris and the New York Stock Exchange.
- Advised Transition, the first French Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) dedicated to the energy transition, on its listing on the professional compartment of Euronext’s regulated market in Paris.
- Advised Fnac Darty in connection with its new financing strategy, which notably includes the successful placement of its first OCEANE bond for €200m.
France > Private equity: LBO Tier 2Working in close conjunction with the tax and finance teams, Bredin Prat's private equity group is equipped to advise on the full spectrum of PE transactions, including setting up tax structures and management packages. Skilled in LBO, public to private and private investment in public equity mandates, the practice is a strong choice for PE and investment funds, family offices and shareholders of target companies. Florence Haas, who is specialised in M&A, public takeovers and LBOs, is a key name.
Other key lawyers:
‘Impeccable professionalism, knowledge of the market, interpersonal skills, integration of internal teams, always guiding clients towards solutions.’
‘Implementation of new technologies (docusign etc.), which accelerates the signing and closing procedures.’
‘The firm Bredin Prat is a long-term partner of our company (KKR), always mastering our requirements.’
‘Florence Haas masters private equity transactions with in-depth commercial knowledge.’
China Jianyin Investment (JIC)
Clayton Dubilier & Rice
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR)
- Advised the Deconinck Family, as controlling shareholder of Tarkett, on the launch of a simplified tender offer on Tarkett shares, with the support of Wendel as long-term financial partner investor.
- Assisted Suez in connection with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Suez, Veolia and a consortium of investors with the view to create a new Suez with revenues of nearly €7bn, comprising Suez’ Water and Recycling & Recovery businesses in France as well as international assets, and growth prospects and development capacities both internationally and in France.
- Advised China Jianyin Investment (JIC) in connection with the ongoing sale of SGD Pharma to PAI Partners.
Other key lawyers:
‘Good understanding of client issues and excellent team investment.’
‘Excellent interpersonal skills and high legal drafting skills from Guillaume Froger.’
‘The involvement of the team is exceptional. The legal level is very high.’
‘Yann Aguila is a former magistrate of the Council of State. He knows how to analyse a file instantly and build a winning strategy.’
‘Agility – competence – technicality – knowledge of the workings of the administration – effort on fees.’
‘Yann Aguila is competent – responsive – reasonable on fees.’
Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegacion Aérea (AENA)
Agence de la transition écologique (ADEME)
Alliance Française des Industries du Numérique (AFNUM)
Association française de l’immobilier locatif
CCIR Paris Île-de-France
COJO Paris 2024 (Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games of Paris 2024)
Conseil interprofessionnel du vin de Bordeaux (CIVB)
Défense Conseil International
Fédération des exportateurs de vins et spiritueux
Fédération des sociétés immobilières et foncières
Fédération française des vins d’apéritif (FFVA)
Groupe de Presse Les Echos / Le Parisien
Martell Mumm Perrier-Jouët – Pernod Ricard
Union des maisons et des marques de vin
- Advising the French State Agence de la transition écologique (ADEME) on reform projects.
- Advising CCIR Paris Île-de-France on the public law aspects of the project of reorganisation of its activities.
- Advising newspapers ‘Les Echos’ and ‘Le Parisien’ on various disputes, in particular concerning the government’s refusal to disclose to a journalist an internal report on the management of the Covid-19 health crisis.
Société Anonyme des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Étrangers (SBM)
Thom Group and Altamir
- Advised Ramsay Santé in connection with the refinancing of the whole of its syndicated debt for a total amount of €1.650bn.
- Advising Casino Group in connection with a refinancing transaction totalling €1.525bn.
- Advised Firmenich on the successful placement of its inaugural €1.5bn Eurobond Benchmark Offering.
France > Compliance Tier 3Bredin Prat provides assistance with the setting up of French anti-corruption, duty of vigilance, code of conduct and whistle-blowing programmes and policies. It is also very experienced in assisting clients with French AFA’s audits, while also assisting companies with carrying out internal investigations. The practice advises a wide range of clients from a high number of different sectors. White-collar crime partners Eric Dezeuze and Guillaume Pellegrin are in charge.
Eric Dezeuze; Guillaume Pellegrin
Louis Christophe Delanoy; Raëd Fathallah; José María Pérez; Tim Portwood
‘All very thorough and competent. Excellent cultural diversity.’
‘Huge international diplomacy skills which are so important for international arbitration. Patience, acceptance of differing views and an ability to distill what is said in a clear and understandable way.’
BRIF TRES D.O.O Beograd and BRIF-TC D.O.O Beograd
The Republic of Croatia
The Arab Republic of Egypt
The Lebanese Republic
- Successfully advised the Lebanese Republic in an ICSID arbitration brought by Mr. Abed El Jaouni, a German investor, and a Lebanese company, Imperial Holding SAL, under the Germany-Lebanon BIT in a dispute arising out of the revocation of air operator certificates held by a Lebanese subsidiary of Imperial Holding SAL.
- Successfully advised the Arab Republic of Egypt in an ICSID arbitration brought by Cementos La Union S.A., a Spain-based investor, under the Spain-Egypt BIT in relation to a dispute concerning a cement business.
- Advising real estate investors in an ICSID arbitration against Serbia in a dispute related to the stalled construction of a shopping centre in Belgrade.
France > Insolvency Tier 3Bredin Prat‘s strong experienced team is able to cover the full range of matters thanks to high-level complementary M&A and financing support available. The firm often acts for debtors in addition to representing shareholders and investors in asset sale transactions. The team was recently involved in several prominent matters concerning the restaurant and food sectors, often in relation to the Covid-19 crisis. It was also involved in one the market’s highlight matter in Comexposium and helped Bordeaux’s football team going through its difficulties. Nicolas Laurent and Olivier Puech co-head the practice which includes counsel Mathilde Sigel.
Olivier Puech; Nicolas Laurent
‘We appreciated the exceptional availability and competence of Nicolas Laurent who offered us not obvious solutions, which are the result of a great experience.’
‘Probably the strongest legal and deal-making know-how in Paris.’
‘Good balance between partners who advise and make deals, in contact with clients, and the teams below who provide execution skills.’
Amer Sports Corporation
CCI Paris Île de France
Eurodivisas (Grupo Global Exchange)
Girondins de Bordeaux
Lagardère Media News
Potel et Chabot
- Advised Potel & Chabot on its successful restructuring thanks to a €18m of financial support coming from its historical shareholders.
- Advising Buffalo Groupe on the takeover of Courtepaille in the context of bankruptcy proceedings.
- Advising Girondins de Bordeaux on an amicable proceeding to find a new shareholder.
- Advising Lactalis on the proposed acquisition of the Leerdammer business from Bel.
- Advising Schneider Electric on the acquisition of OSIsoft.
- Advising Schneider Electric on the acquisition of a 25% stake in Planon Beheer.
Bredin Prat > Firm Profile
Bredin Prat is a leading law firm with a reputation for excellence in each of its practice areas: corporate/M&A, securities law, litigation and international arbitration, tax, competition and European law, banking and finance, restructuring and insolvency, employment, public and digital law.
Founded in 1966, the firm was first renowned for its expertise in litigation and arbitration, and, in the 1980s, began to expand its corporate law practice, a field in which it is now an undisputed market leader. This dual specialization enables the firm to handle a wide range of transactions and litigation matters for clients of all nationalities.
With offices in Paris and Brussels, Bredin Prat today has over 190 lawyers, including 50 partners and 23 counsels. Approximately one-third of the firm’s lawyers have dual nationality. Bredin Prat has successfully grown while preserving the firm’s culture and remaining committed to the highest standards of excellence.
Bredin Prat’s success is due, first and foremost, to its partners’ unequivocal and undisputed dedication to providing its clients with the highest level of expertise, placing the firm in a class of its own.
The ratio of associates to partners on each matter is among the lowest in the profession – evidence of the firm’s commitment to excellence.
For international and cross-border work, Bredin Prat lawyers work in integrated teams with lawyers from the firm’s Best Friends, a core network of independent firms from among the best in their respective jurisdictions. Today this network comprises 2,700 lawyers in 37 offices worldwide.
Staff FiguresNumber of lawyers : 190
LanguagesArabic Bulgarian Chinese Dutch English Farsi French German Hebrew Hungarian Italian Polish Romanian Russian Serbian Spanish
OtherOther offices : Brussels
Doing Business In
One Year Before the Presidential Elections Review & Perspectives
French employment law often has the reputation of being a strict, rigid set of rules providing a high level of protection to employees. Yet, in the past few years, and in particular since 2017 under President Macron, employment law in France has undergone a certain number of changes, brought by various governmental reforms which aimed at simplifying the regulations, while also bringing a certain level of flexibility to the employers.
The following is an overview of the recent evolutions of labor and employment law in France, and this at a critical date: one year before the next presidential elections, scheduled for April 2022.
The 2017 Labor Law Reform
In September 2017, the French government enacted several ordinances which introduced profound changes to French labor and employment law, with the main intention of making the French labor market more flexible.
Hierarchy of Laws
French labor and employment law is based on both State-level sources (the Constitution, laws and regulations codified in the Labor Code, case law) and professional-level sources (industry-wide and company-wide collective bargaining agreements, unilateral decisions of the employer – “engagements unilatéraux”, company practices – “usages”), to which one should add applicable international and European conventions and treaties, and the interpretation of the law provided by case law. National collective bargaining agreements concluded at industry-level are very common and their application was, historically, mandatory in all companies belonging to the same industry. In principle, it was not possible to depart from it – unless, in certain cases where the alternative provisions were more favorable to the employees.
However, through the 2017 Labor Law Reform (and its previous installment, the 2016 Labor “El Khomri” Law), the structure of the French Labor Code was significantly amended to provide that company-wide agreements could depart from industry-wide agreements in many areas, even in cases where their provisions would be less favorable to the employees.
In fact, the industry-wide agreements kept their primacy vis-à-vis company-wide agreements in only six areas: minimum wage, employee classification, supplementary social protection, training, prevention of the arduousness of work, and professional equality between women and men. As a consequence, with the exception of these subjects, company-wide agreements may now be less favorable to employees than industry-wide agreements (e.g. in areas such as working time, paid leave, bonuses, severance payments, etc.).
This new architecture of social dialogue has contributed to a substantial increase of the number of company-wide collective bargaining agreements: In 2020, the General Labor Department counted 76,650 such agreements, compared to only 42,200 in 2016.
This significant increase in the number of company-wide collective bargaining agreements can also be explained by the new possibility to negotiate such agreements even within medium-sized and small companies, even in the absence of any trade union representatives, through negotiation with the elected “social and economic committee” members, if any, or by way of referendum directly with employees.
The importance of this evolution should not be underestimated, as only 8% of the employees in France effectively belong to a union (although collective bargaining agreements concluded with a union apply to all employees, regardless of whether they are unionized or not), and 2/3 of the companies in France have less than 10 employees.
One of the most important provisions of the 2017 Labor Law Reform relates to the simplification of employee representation: It replaces all previous employee representative bodies (i.e. works council – “comité d’entreprise”, staff delegates – “délégués du personnel”, health and safety committee – “comité d’hygiène, de sécurité et des conditions de travail) by one single body for all companies with at least eleven employees.
This new employee representative body, known as the “economic and social committee” (“comité social et économique”), had to be implemented in all concerned companies by December 31, 2019 at the latest. As it was already the case before 2017, the members of this employee representative bodies are employees of the company elected by their peers. Belonging to a trade union is not mandatory to be candidate.
In companies of less than 50 employees, the economic and social committee has a general role in the promotion of health and safety, in presenting individual claims (notably relating to the application of the Labor Code), etc. In companies of 50 or more employees, the economic and social committee has an additional role: It must be informed and/or consulted on many issues, notably concerning the organization, management, and general operation of the company; as well as on issues concerning capital, assets and/or employment structure; etc.
The social and economic committee does not hold any veto right, but its role in any project of the company should not be disregarded, as the law provides that its consultation process (which typically lasts from 1 to 3 months) must be completed before any decision being made and any project is implemented.
Individual Termination of Employment
The 2017 Labor Law Reform also aimed at securing the labor relation between the employer and the employee. Notably, assessing that the uncertain nature of their financial exposure in case of litigation following the dismissal of an employee could hinder some employers from hiring, the government introduced a cap for the indemnification of unfair dismissals (the “Macron Scale” – “Barème Macron”), which is based on the length of service of the dismissed employee and the overall headcount of the company. This cap does not, however, cover specific prejudices, nor cases where the dismissal would be deemed null and void (notably in case of moral harassment or discrimination) instead of merely “unfair”.
A side effect of the Macron scale is that claims on a moral harassment or on a discrimination are increasing over the past years.
Moreover, the 2017 Reform simplified the requirements for motivation of a dismissal letter: A template form was issued, and a specific procedure was introduced that enables the employer to provide precision of the grounds of dismissal after notification of the dismissal letter. The statute of limitation applicable to challenge a dismissal on personal grounds was also lowered to one year (except for claims related to the execution of the employment contract or to specific situations such as discrimination or violation of the protective statute for pregnant women).
As with dismissals on personal grounds, the 2017 Labor Law Reform aims at bringing more security to economic dismissals. Before the reform, the economic grounds for a dismissal had indeed to be assessed at the level of the business sector of the whole group to which a company belonged –in other words, economic difficulties could have to be proven on a worldwide scale in order to justify an economic dismissal in a French subsidiary!
Since 2017, on the contrary, the economic situation of a group should be considered only at the French national level in order to justify an economic dismissal. Likewise, potential internal redeployment opportunities within the group for the employees dismissed on an economic ground must now only be offered in France (although it remains common for companies to voluntarily offer redeployment positions abroad).
Collective Mutual Termination Process
The 2017 Labor Law Reform also created a new scheme, called “collective mutual termination” (“rupture conventionnelle collective”), which enables an employer, through the conclusion of a company-wide agreement with the relevant employee representatives (it could not be implemented unilaterally by the employer), and under the control of the Labor Administration, to organize the voluntary departures of as many employees as it wishes. Contrary to classic workforce reduction / collective redundancy schemes, a collective mutual termination procedure does not necessitate to justify the existence of any economic difficulties (although the existence of such difficulties could help the discussions with the employee representatives and the Administration). In this scheme, the risk of individual litigation from employees is limited. However, the reorganization may only be implemented through voluntary departures which will not provide any guarantee on the target organization.
The Status of Platform Workers
A recent parliamentary report estimates that, as of January 2021, at least 200;000 persons work as independent contractors for digital platforms (in particular in the ride-hailing and food delivery sectors) in France. The status of these workers, who are not hired under an employment contract and do not per se benefit from the protection associated with “classic” employee status (notably social security, paid leave, unemployment insurance, etc.), has given rise to many debates in France in the last few years.
A Law on “mobility orientations” dated December 24, 2019 provides only for limited guarantees for these workers, by allowing the platforms to establish a charter determining the conditions and modalities for exercising its social responsibility, which should define the platform’s rights and obligations as well as those of the independent contractors with whom it works.
In parallel, there is an increase in litigation related to the nature of the relationship between these “independent contractors” and companies using digital platforms and apps to connect customers and workers. In 2018, the French Supreme Court (“Cour de cassation”) ruled for the first time that an independent worker from a home meal delivery platform had in fact the status of an employee. In 2020, the same Court requalified the relationship between an independent driver and Uber as an employment contract, as it considered that the driver’s independent status was fictitious. Yet, the legal debate continues, as platforms keep on demonstrating that they are mere intermediates between independent workers and customers, and that these workers are in no way in a subordination relationship with the platforms.
More recently, the French government issued, in April 2021, an ordinance providing for the professional election of representatives for the drivers and delivery-men in the Spring 2022, with a clear intention to encourage social dialogue between the platforms and the independent workers. According to the Minister of Labor, such dialogue “will ensure a better balance of commercial relations between the different actors and the implementation of working conditions and remuneration adapted to the situation of the workers”. Whether such discussions, and potential negotiations, will have a real impact on the status of independent platform workers will certainly be one of the key question of the upcoming years.
On its side, the French Senate launched this Summer 2021 a fact-finding mission on the impact of “uberization” and digital platforms on jobs and employment. This mission’s report has been presented at the end of September and provides several recommendations on the following areas: improving working conditions, promoting social dialogue, monitoring algorithmic management and ensuring the transparency, clarification and adjustment of platform algorithms.
The Impact of Covid-19
Although recourse to remote working was secured and facilitated by the 2017 Labor Law Reform, it is the Covid-19 pandemic and the successive lockdowns that really lead to the generalization of such working organization. As of today, although lockdown in France officially ended on June 30, 2021, some companies still encourage their employees to work from home, one or a few days a week, where possible. Specialists now wonder if this is merely a temporary trend, or if remote work will become a common benefit for most French employees in the future.
From a strict legal point of view, remote work can be implemented through various means: collective agreement, unilateral decision of the employer (potentially implemented after consultation of the economic and social committee), or specific individual agreement with the employee.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, a specific “furlough scheme” already existed and allowed employers to maintain their operation at a reduced scale, in case of major drop in activity. Under such scheme, an employer can, under control of the Labor Administration, reduce the working hours of employees and/or close down part of the company. In these circumstances, the loss of income suffered by employees as a result of their hours not worked is partially compensated by the employer through the payment of an allowance for each hour not worked (at least 70% of their gross hourly pay). The employer then receives a lump-sum compensation allowance from the State. Within the context of the Covid-19 specific measures, this furlough scheme can be implemented for a period of up to twelve months (instead of six months).
In order to help companies facing a lasting reduction of their activity, and avoid collective redundancies in the context of the pandemic, the French government also introduced in June 2020 a new furlough mechanism, named “APLD” (for “Activité Partielle Longue Durée” – long-term partial activity). This mechanism enables an employer to reduce the working hours of its employees by up to 40% of the legal working time (i.e. 40% of 35 hours a week: 21 hours). Meanwhile, as from July 2021, the employees must receive a remuneration at least equal to 60% of their gross hourly pay for each hour not worked, and the employer receives as corresponding compensation a State allowance equal to a percentage of the gross hourly pay of the concerned employees. This mechanism can be implemented for up to 36 months, under the control of the Labor Administration, by way of collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the relevant employee representatives, or by way of unilateral decision, on the condition that an industry-wide collective agreement already provides an APLD framework.
According to the French Labor Ministry, c. 500,000 employees were subject to furlough in August 2021 (i.e. 2,4% of the employees of the private sector), against c. 2.2 million in May 2021 (i.e. a decrease of almost 80%, which can be explained by the end of lockdown and the reopening of many shops, restaurants, and other public spaces, as well as a diminution of the State allowance for companies of certain sectors).
As per a new law passed in August 2021, certain employees, notably health professionals and employees working in places where a health pass is mandatory (e.g. restaurants, cultural establishments, trains, malls, etc.) must present a valid health pass (i.e. a Covid-19 vaccination certificate, a negative RT-PCR/antigenic test, or a recovery certificate) or, in some cases, are even subject to a Covid-19 vaccination obligation, to be authorized to work.
If an employee subject to such obligation cannot show the necessary proof to his employer, his employment contract will in principle be suspended, and he will not be paid, until he can show the relevant certificate. The use of paid leave by the employee or, if possible, his affectation to a position where a health pass is not necessary, is also possible in order to avoid such suspension of the employment contract. In any case, any dismissal on such grounds remains prohibited. The issue of the validity of the suspension of the employment contract in this context is currently pending in front of various French courts.
In all other professions that are not subject to mandatory vaccination or health pass, a lack of pass or a refusal to vaccinate cannot justify a suspension of the employment contract, nor a sanction. In this situation, an employer cannot impose vaccination on his employees nor force them to carry out a RT-PCR test in order to work on site.
Perspectives for 2022 and beyond
In addition to these evolutions, new major reforms are already being prepared for the upcoming months, in particular concerning pension systems, as President Macron has announced that discussions in this respect may be re-open by the end of the year. In the context of the upcoming 2022 presidential elections, such major and controversial reforms could even become a way for the current President to launch his potential re-election campaign especially in a context of an embellishment of the employment sector…
It is therefore essential to remain informed of these new and changing texts, in order to benefit from all opportunities that the French workforce and market may offer.
Published: October 2021
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