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Staff or Employee Representation

In France the employer has a statutory or legal obligation to organise elections for

  • (a) staff representatives (in French dlgus du personnel) when the company employs at least 11 people (article L.2312-1 of the French employment code)

as well as

  • ((b) a works council (in French a comit dentreprise) when the company employs at least 50 employees (article L.2322-1 of the French employment code).

The staff representatives and members of the works council are usually elected for a four-year period and the Code du Travail (codified French Employment Law) sets out the full details of the role and the rights of each.

These elections must take place in every company, subsidiary or branch throughout France which meet the above criteria as to the number of employees but have nothing whatsoever to do with unions or organised labour representation which are subject to totally distinct and strict rules.

The burden weighs on the employer to undertake the organisation of the staff representative elections in question and there are possible serious sanctions if the employer does not do so.

The employer who fails to comply with his obligations in this respect may even be subject to criminal sanctions for hindering the staff representational process (Dlit dentrave) and may additionally face an award for damages.

Thus, considerable prudence must be shown in such matters and the employer would do well to take legal advice if his observes that he will soon employ more than ten or more than forty-nine people

It is also important for the employer to be aware that those duly elected, or even candidates, to the position of staff representative or Works Council member benefit from special and strong protection under French law and for example cannot be dismissed in normal circumstances.

If the employer is genuinely forced to envisage the termination of a protected employees contract of employment then he should be aware that a specific procedure needs to be followed to the letter and taking advice from an employment law specialist would be systematically recommended.