Job protection plan

The job protection plan is intended as a means for businesses to avoid having to resort to redundancy plans. It is advisable to engage in discussions on the implementation of a job protection plan at an early stage, before the situation reaches a crisis point.

The job protection plan is a means for businesses to:

  • proactively manage the effects of a planned reorganisation;
  • find, through social dialogue, alternative solutions to unemployment for employees facing the prospect of redundancy.

The secretariat of the Economic Committee (Secrétariat du Comité de Conjoncture) is available to businesses to present and discuss the application of the measures provided for by a job protection plan.

Who is concerned

The job protection plan is intended for businesses that are currently experiencing financial hardship, or expect to do so in the near future.

During the economic recovery period (i.e., up until 31 December 2020), a job protection plan must be implemented if a business having 15 or more employees:

  • 1) operates in one of the so-called "vulnerable" sectors, i.e., hospitality (HORECA), events management and tourism; and 2) wishes to place some of its employees on a short-time work regime, but is nevertheless obliged to dismiss a certain number of employees for economic reasons thereby exceeding the threshold of 25% of its headcount as at 30 June 2020; or
  • 1) operates in the "Manufacturing/Other" sectors, and 2) wishes to place some of its employees on a short-time work regime, but must inevitably dismiss some of them for economic reasons; or
  • 1) operates in the "Other" sector, and 2) wishes to place some of its employees on a short-time work regime but, under exceptional circumstances, wishes to exceed the 25-percent threshold for the number of employees on short-time work at 30 June 2020.

How to proceed

Discussion of job protection plans

Discussions regarding a job protection plan may be initiated by:

  • either the social partners when they suspect that economic or financial problems are likely to negatively impact jobs;
  • or the Economic Committee (Comité de conjoncture) when:
    • it records more than 5 redundancies over a 3-month period, or 8 redundancies over a 6-month period for reasons not related to the concerned employees' person;
    • financial or economic difficulties are anticipated.

Where applicable, the Economic Committee can request an in-depth audit of the business's economic, financial and social position in order to decide, in full knowledge of the facts, whether it is appropriate to implement a job protection plan. With the agreement of the business, the audit may be carried out by external experts. The Employment Fund (Fonds pour l'emploi) may cover the experts' fees.

The members of the Economic Committee undertake to comply with their obligation of professional discretion with regard to any information received in this way.

Discussions concerning the job protection plan take place between the social partners, i.e.:

  • on the one hand:
    • the employer; and/or
    • an employers’ professional association;
  • and on the other hand, as appropriate:
    • the staff delegation;
    • where applicable, the trade unions which have signed up to the collective agreement.

In the absence of a collective agreement, the staff delegation may invite one or more trade unions with representation at the national level to take part in the discussions on the introduction of a job protection plan.

Note that there is no time limit to reach agreement.

Should the negotiations fail, a report outlining the content and conclusions of the discussions, signed by all parties, must be sent to Economic Committee, if discussions were undertaken at the initiative of the latter.

If agreement is reached, the plan must be assessed by the Economic Committee and approved by the Minister of Labour and Employment in order for the business to be eligible for certain benefits directly connected to the implementation of a job protection plan.

Note that in order to take effect, job protection plans must be:

  • assessed by the Economic Committee; and
  • approved by the minister responsible for employment.

Content of plans

Discussions will relate primarily to the following instruments:

  • job protection instruments within the business:
    • reduction in the number of temporary staff;
    • natural departures without replacements, including through the use of training for internal redeployment;
    • short-time work regime;
    • adjustments to working hours by means of:
      • a longer or shorter reference period;
      • voluntary part-time working;
      • the use of time savings accounts (compte épargne-temps);
    • participation in continuing training and/or retraining during inactive or freed-up working hours;
    • voluntary career breaks;
    • temporary loan of labour;
    • early retirement for company restructuring;
  • instruments for internal or intra-group restructuring:
    • reduction in the number of fixed-term employment contracts;
    • voluntary departures (including tax exemptions for voluntary departure or redundancy benefits under article 115.10);
    • retraining to allow redeployment within the business or to another business in the same sector;
    • search for new jobs;
    • temporary loan of labour;
  • external reassignment:
    • search for new jobs (profile analysis and contact with ADEM, businesses (including suppliers and customers), professional networks and federations, and outplacement agencies);
    • personalised support for career changes, using external experts if necessary;
    • retraining, where appropriate, with training fees subsidised by ADEM;
    • temporary loan of labour;
    • re-employment support;
    • recruitment aid for older workers;
    • voluntary departures (including tax exemptions for voluntary departure or redundancy benefits under article 115.10)

Most of these instruments can also be used without a job protection plan, but businesses that resort to job protection plans approved by the Minister of Labour, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy may benefit from more favourable conditions when implementing some of these instruments.

The job protection plan may involve one or more of these instruments, and can even include other measures not specifically listed above. It provides a framework upon which to build a structured approach to dealing with the effects of reorganisation on employment.

It must define a period of application and the principles and procedures governing its implementation and monitoring.

The discussion may also cover employees made redundant during the 3- or 6-month reference period that led to the recommendation to implement a job protection plan.

Approval and monitoring of the job protection plan

The social partners establish the job protection plan in the form of an agreement signed by the appropriate signatories.

The plan must then be submitted to the secretariat of the Economic Committee.

It will then be assessed by the Economic Committee before being forwarded to the minister responsible for employment for approval which, once granted, would entitle the business to certain additional benefits directly connected to the implementation of a job protection plan.

The secretariat of the Economic Committee then provides support in terms of implementing and monitoring the job protection plan.

 

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