French labour law and French social protection are two areas that occupy a central place in French people daily lives, and which are constantly evolving to adapt to our constantly changing society. Today, a topical issue is of concern, both in terms of its implications for employees’ rights and for human resources management within companies: the government’s decree on job abandonment and its consequences for the award of unemployment benefits.
According to this decree published today, 19/04/2023, in the Journal Officiel, an employee who does not return to his or her job within 15 days of a formal notice may henceforth be deprived of unemployment benefits. This measure, which constitutes a presumption of resignation, is part of a law aimed at encouraging a return to full employment. It is important to stress that this presumption does not apply in the event of the exercise of the right of withdrawal, strike action or for medical reasons.
Until now, abandoning one’s post generally led to dismissal for misconduct, which gave the employee concerned the right to receive unemployment benefits. This new measure therefore represents a break with the French legal tradition, which has always considered that employees dismissed for misconduct could benefit from some social protection.
In this article, we explore the implications of this reform on employees’ rights, employers’ obligations and the stakes of this new legislative provision for the future of the French labour market. We will also analyse the arguments for and against this measure, in order to give you an informed and balanced view of the issues it raises.
1. The issues at stake in the reform and its consequences for employees’ rights
1.1. The presumption of resignation and the impact on access to unemployment benefits
Abandonment of post, defined as an employee’s failure to report to work without a valid reason, was until now sanctioned by dismissal for misconduct. This situation allowed the employee to benefit from unemployment benefits, provided he or she met the conditions for receiving them.
The presumption of resignation introduced by the new decree changes the situation in terms of social protection. Indeed, in the event of abandonment of post, the employee will no longer be entitled to unemployment benefit, except in the cases specified above. This measure is part of a policy of making employees more responsible, aimed at avoiding abuse and encouraging workers to keep their jobs. However, what are the exceptions where job abandonment and its consequences for unemployment are not related?
1.2. Exceptions to the presumption of resignation and the guarantee of fundamental rights
However, the legislator has taken care to provide for exceptions to this presumption of resignation, in order to guarantee the fundamental rights of employees. Thus, the new measure will not apply in the event of the exercise of the right of withdrawal, strike or for medical reasons. These situations, which fall within the scope of the protection of workers’ health and safety, will therefore continue to be governed by labour law and will continue to allow the employees concerned to receive unemployment benefits in the event of dismissal.
1.3. Consequences for employer-employee relations and human resources management
This reform also impacts on the relationship between employers and employees, as well as on human resources management within companies. Employers will have to pay attention to this new legislative provision and adapt their practices in terms of managing absences and punishing misconduct.
For their part, employees will have to be aware of the consequences of their actions and think twice before taking the decision to abandon their post without good reason. This encourages them to seek dialogue and alternative solutions in the event of conflict or difficulties encountered in the course of their employment.
In this first chapter, we have discussed the issues at stake in the reform and its consequences for employees’ rights. In the next chapter, we will look at the obligations of employers and how this new measure is applied.
2. Employers’ obligations and the application of the new measure
2.1. Employers’ responsibilities in the event of abandonment of post
When faced with an abandonment of post, employers have obligations and responsibilities to respect. First of all, they must ensure that the employee’s absence is indeed an abandonment of post and not due to an exceptional situation, such as the exercise of the right of withdrawal, a strike or a medical reason.
In the case of a proven abandonment of post, the employer must send a formal notice to the employee, inviting him to return to work within 15 days. This letter must be sent by registered mail with acknowledgement of receipt, in order to guarantee proof of sending and receipt by the employee.
2.2. The procedure in the event of the employee’s failure to return after the formal notice
If the employee does not return to work within 15 days of the notice, the employer may consider that the employee has resigned. However, it is advisable to take the advice of a lawyer or an employment law advisor before taking such a decision, in order to ensure the validity of the procedure and to avoid possible disputes.
If the presumption of resignation is accepted, the employer must formalise the termination of the employment contract in accordance with the rules applicable to resignations. It should be remembered that resignation does not give rise to redundancy payments, unlike dismissal for misconduct.
2.3. Consequences for the employer if the presumption of resignation is incorrectly applied
Employers must be particularly careful in applying the presumption of resignation. Indeed, an incorrectly conducted procedure or a failure to fulfil the employer’s obligations could lead to legal and financial consequences.
If the employee considers that the presumption of resignation has been applied in an abusive or unjustified manner, he or she may take the matter to the industrial tribunal to contest the decision. In the event of a conviction, the employer may be required to pay compensation to the employee, particularly for dismissal without real and serious cause.
We saw the obligations of employers and the application of the new measure on abandonment of post. In the next chapter, we will examine the arguments for and against this reform, as well as the future prospects for the French labour market.
3. Arguments for and against the reform and future prospects for the French labour market
3.1. The arguments in favour of the reform
Several arguments support the implementation of this reform on job abandonment and its consequences on the allocation of unemployment benefits. On the one hand, it aims to make employees more responsible by encouraging them to favour dialogue and the search for alternative solutions in the event of conflict or difficulties encountered in the performance of their job.
On the other hand, it makes it possible to combat abuses and situations where employees might be tempted to abandon their jobs in order to receive unemployment benefits. The reform thus contributes to preserving the financial equilibrium of the unemployment insurance system and to optimising the resources devoted to combating unemployment.
Finally, this measure is part of an overall policy aimed at promoting a return to full employment in France and encouraging professional stability.
3.2. The arguments against the reform
However, the reform also raises concerns and criticism. Some believe that it undermines the social protection of employees and risks making them even more vulnerable in the event of a conflict with their employer.
In addition, there are fears that some employers will misuse the measure to circumvent the rules on dismissal and thus avoid paying redundancy payments.
Finally, some observers are concerned about the consequences for the labour market, especially with regard to the casualisation of employees and the increase in situations of unpaid unemployment.
3.3. Future prospects for the French labour market
The reform of the abandonment of post and its consequences on the allocation of unemployment benefits is causing an important debate on the balance between employee empowerment and social protection. The effects of this measure on the French labour market will have to be assessed in the medium and long term, in order to measure its real impact on the behaviour of employees and employers, as well as on employment dynamics.
It is crucial to ensure that this reform is part of an overall policy to promote employment, equal opportunities and the protection of workers’ rights. In addition, close monitoring and control of employers’ practices will be necessary to avoid abuses and ensure that employees’ rights are respected.
In this third chapter, we have examined the arguments for and against the reform, as well as the future prospects for the labour market in France. Through this analysis, we hope to have shed light on the issues raised by this new measure and to have contributed to a constructive reflection on its impact and implications.
4. Psychosocial risks and alternatives to leaving work
4.1. Psychosocial risks linked to abandoning one’s post
Abandonment of a post may be a symptom of a deep-seated malaise within the company or of a deteriorated professional situation. Psychosocial risks, such as stress, burn-out, bullying or interpersonal conflicts, may lead some employees to consider abandoning their job as a last resort to preserve their mental health and well-being.
It is therefore essential for employers to take account of these psychosocial risks and to put in place prevention and support measures to prevent employees from finding themselves in such a situation. This implies paying particular attention to the quality of life at work, social dialogue and taking account of warning signs relating to psychological health.
4.2. Alternatives to abandoning one’s post
Faced with situations of professional unhappiness or psychosocial risks, employees have several alternatives to abandoning their post, which allow them to preserve their rights while seeking a solution to their problems:
- Dialogue with the employer: talking to their line manager or the human resources department can help find concrete solutions to improve working conditions and resolve conflicts.
- Referring to the social and economic committee (CSE): in the event of persistent problems, the employee can refer to the CSE, which has competences in the field of health, safety and working conditions, and which can intervene to find appropriate solutions.
- Consulting an occupational physician: asking the occupational physician to assess the employee’s situation and proposing adjustments to the workstation, medical monitoring or, in some cases, a work stoppage.
- Mediation or conciliation: to resolve interpersonal conflicts or situations of harassment, recourse to a professional mediator or a court conciliator can be an effective solution for re-establishing dialogue and finding an amicable agreement.
- Conventional termination: if no solution can be found to improve the employment situation, the employee may consider a conventional termination, which allows the employment contract to be terminated by mutual agreement with the employer and entitles the employee to unemployment benefits.
In this fourth chapter, we have discussed the psychosocial risks associated with job abandonment and the alternatives available to employees to preserve their rights and well-being. The prevention of psychosocial risks and the promotion of social dialogue are major challenges for companies, which must ensure a healthy and fulfilling working environment for all their employees.
We have seen that from now on, abandoning one’s post has major consequences for the allocation of unemployment benefits. Indeed, the reform introducing the presumption of resignation in the event of abandonment of post without a valid reason and without a return within 15 days of a formal notice, raises many issues and questions. While it aims to make employees more responsible and to combat abuse, it may also have an impact on the social protection of workers and on employer-employee relations. It is therefore essential to consider the various consequences and implications of this reform for all stakeholders.
Beyond this measure, the consideration of psychosocial risks and the prevention of occupational discomfort are crucial issues for companies. Employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy working environment for their employees, while ensuring a constructive social dialogue.
In the face of conflictual or difficult situations, employees have several alternatives to giving up their job to preserve their rights and well-being. Dialogue with the employer, referral to the CSE, consultation of an occupational physician, mediation or even a contractual termination are all solutions to be explored before considering abandoning the job.
Ultimately, the success of this French government reform and the preservation of workers’ rights depend on a global and balanced approach, which combines accountability, social dialogue and the prevention of psychosocial risks. It is important to carefully monitor the effects of this measure on the French labour market, in order to adjust if necessary the legislative and regulatory arrangements to ensure adequate social protection and a fulfilling working environment for all.