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Lay offs and redundancies in France

Dismissals on economic grounds

Whilst this list should not be held to be exhaustive, the following points might be of particular comparative interest to practitioners or employers used to the quite different provisions of many Common Law systems.

Employment in France is not 'at will' and thus dismissals may only come about on demonstrably and limited objective grounds which must be brought to the attention of the employee in writing and the employee must be granted a formal opportunity to put forward his or her views in this respect.

Dismissals are subject to stringent, and often bureaucratic, procedural statutory constraints, for example in most circumstances the employee must be summoned to a preliminary meeting with his or her employer by recorded delivery mail with proof of delivery requested; and such a summons must generally allow for a fixed number of days between the receipt to the letter and the preliminary meeting failing which the whole procedure could be held to be null and void.

Redundancies, or lay-offs on economic grounds, are subject to separate and complex procedural and substantive constraints particularly in the case of multiple dismissals.

Legislative changes over the past decade mean that French Law has brought about a situation where in essence the French entity itself (as opposed to the group to which it may belong) must be in a sufficiently severe economic situation to justify laying off staff or making them redundant.

Furthermore, there are a number of French State Agencies which have a statutory right to be advised of, and in some cases to authorise, proposed dismissals by private sector employers.

It is extremely easy and at virtually no cost for an employee to start litigation against his (ex) employer before separate Labour Courts.

Labour Relations Courts (Conseils de Prud'hommes) are generally made up of lay judges who are elected from the ranks of employer/employee organisations.

It is rare that the plaintiff be other than an employee and just as rare that claims be dismissed with no award whatsoever being made against the employer.