The Syntec Federation, a national employer association in France for technology and consulting businesses, has signed four new collective agreements with the national trade unions. These agreements are in response to changing market conditions, including increased use of remote and "hybrid" working arrangements.

The Syntec Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA, formally known as the National Collective Agreement for Technical Consulting Firms, Engineering Consulting Firms and Consulting Companies) is the most widely applied collective agreement in France, governing relations between most technology multinationals and their French employees.

The Syntec Federation touts the changes agreed in December 2022 as mutually beneficial to the 80,000 companies and 1.2 million employees subject to the Syntec CBA. For employers, the following changes are worthy of note:

1. The scope for using the flexible "forfait jours" working time regime is extended. This regime provides maximum flexibility for employees classified as "autonomous executives". Instead of being subject to a fixed number of hours' work per week, they simply have an agreed number of days' work per year (218). The regime can only be used if there is both a collective agreement providing expressly for it and an individual written agreement with the employee.

The agreement signed in December 2022 provides that the regime can be used for a larger number of white collar (cadre) employees: it will be available for staff classified in position 2.3 under the Syntec classification system. Previously the regime could only be used for more highly classified employees.

Employers will welcome the extension of the regime to more employees for the flexibility it affords. However, it will remain important to check that the nature of the employee's duties genuinely justifies use of this type of working time regime; otherwise there is a risk of overtime claims (with possible liability for the offence of "concealed work").

2. One of the four agreements focuses on hybrid remote work. It contains a list of the subjects that must be covered if the employer signs a collective agreement or adopts a unilateral charter relating to remote work; and a template company-level agreement on remote work is appended to this new Syntec agreement.

There are certain improvements to individual rights for hybrid workers, including:

  • an increase in the duration of mandatory daily breaks (from 20 to 45 minutes); and
  • an express obligation, for employers that give meal tickets to their staff, to give them to hybrid workers.

3. There are new provisions on the right to disconnect. This statutory right has already existed for several years in France. Employers should facilitate the exercise of this right outside of normal working hours, including by directing managers not to bother employees during their "off hours". Employers are required to implement measures to allow/encourage employees to exercise their right to disconnect from remote working devices.

Under the new Syntec provisions, companies with more than 250 employees must appoint a disconnection "referee", who is supposed to make managers and staff more aware of disconnection rights and issues.

The renewed focus on the right to disconnect here is driven by the additional difficulty in exercising this right when working from home, in particular because work devices (phone and laptop) are always within easy reach at home.

4. Employees subject to the "forfait jours" regime will be entitled to be paid a 100% increase on their normal daily rate for work on Sundays and public holidays. This will apply to exceptional (rather than habitual) Sunday and holiday work.

In light of this change, employers may want to instruct staff not to work on Sundays or public holidays without prior authorization, and (as part of the existing obligation actively to monitor the workload of employees subject to the "forfait jours" regime) check compliance.

5. Pregnant employees are now entitled to two days of exceptional paid leave in case of spontaneous termination of pregnancy. Employees who are subject to the Syntec CBA and whose partner experiences such spontaneous termination of pregnancy will also be entitled to the same leave. This is in addition to any other leave, including maternity leave, which normally starts six weeks before the expected delivery date.

The new Syntec agreements will come into force on the first day of the calendar month following that in which the French government publishes an "extension" order providing for mandatory application of the agreements. This may take several months.

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