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Health and Safety Representation

Employee representatives on the health and safety committee are the key channel providing an input from employees in this area. The committee must be consulted in on a wide range of issues and in certain circumstances it also has the right to bring in an outside expert, paid by the employer.

Basic approach at workplace level

It is the employer’s responsibility to take the measures necessary to ensure the safety and protect the mental and physical health of the employees. The role of the health and safety committee, on which employees are represented, is to contribute to this.

Employee health and safety bodies

The health and safety committee (le comité d’hygiène, de sécurité et des conditions de travail – CHSCT) is the main body protecting employees in the area of health and safety in larger workplaces (50 or more employees). In smaller workplaces the health and safety role of the committee is taken by the employee delegates (délégués du personnel).

Numbers and structure

Employee delegates, who deal with health and safety issues where there are fewer than 50 employees, can be elected if there are at least 11 employees. There is a single employee delegate where there are between 11 and 25 employees and two for workplaces with 26 to 74.

If there are at least 50 employees a health and safety committee should be set up. The labour inspectorate can also insist on a health and safety committee being set up in workplaces with fewer than 50 employees if there are particular risks.

The health and safety committee is a joint body, chaired by the employer or the employer’s representative and the number of employee representatives who are members rises with the number of employees in the workplace as follows.

Number of employees

Number of employee representatives

50 to 199

3 (of which 1 should be a manager)

200 to 499

4 (of which 1 should be a manager)

500 to 1,499

6 (of which 2 should be managers)

1,500 plus

9 (of which 3 should be managers)

In workplaces with at least 500 employers it is possible to have several health and safety committees, if this is warranted by the nature of the work.

As well as the employee representatives and the employer, the works doctor and the person responsible for health and safety in the company also attend the health and safety committee in a consultative capacity.

Tasks and rights

The role of the health and safety committee is to contribute to the physical and mental health and safety of those employed at the workplace. It plays a part in improving working conditions and it monitors compliance with health and safety legislation.

Its particular functions are to:

 

  • analyse working conditions and occupational hazards faced by employees (particularly pregnant women);
  • analyse the extent to which employees are exposed to particularly arduous conditions;
  • contribute to the avoidance of occupational hazards;
  • undertake workplace inspections;
  • propose action to prevent bullying and sexual harassment; and
  • undertake enquiries following accidents and occupational diseases or serious and imminent hazards.

 

It must be informed by the employer of any visits by the labour inspectorate and it can present its views to the labour inspector. The employer must also provide the health and safety committee with an annual report setting out the overall position in relation to health and safety and an assessment of the actions carried out in the course of the year. The employer must also present the health and safety committee with an annual plan setting out proposals to reduce risks and improve working conditions.

The health and safety committee must also be consulted:

 

  • before any major change in work as a result of changes in production processes, products or work organisation;
  • before changes in production speeds;
  • on planned alterations to take account of significant technological change;
  • on the consequences for employees’ health and safety of the introduction of new technology;
  • on action to retain in employment those who have suffered industrial accidents or are disabled; and
  • on documents relating to its functions, including its rules of procedure.

 

Frequency of meetings

The health and safety committee should meet at least once every three months as well as following a serious accident or potential accident, or when two employee members call for it to meet.

Election and term of office

Employee delegates are elected by the whole workforce, although initially they can only be nominated by the unions. They are normally elected for four years.

The employee members of the health and safety committee are elected by an electoral college composed of the employee delegates and the employee members of the works council (comité d’entreprise / d’établissement), which should be set up in workplaces with at least 50 employees.

Employee representatives on the committee can combine this with other positions as representatives and will often do so.

The term of office is two years.

Resources and time off

Employee delegates in workplaces with fewer than 50 employees – that is those without a health and safety committee – are entitled to 10 hours’ paid time off a month. This is to cover all their responsibilities not just those relating to health and safety.

Employee members of the health and safety committee are also entitled to paid time off, with the amount linked to the number of employees. The amount, which can be shared as wished between members of the committee, is as follows.

Number of employees

Amount of paid time-off per month

50 to 99

2 hours

100 to 299

5 hours

300 to 499

10 hours

500 to 1,499

15 hours

1,500 plus

20 hours

In addition to these specified hours, health and safety committee members are paid for time spent at meetings, for time investigating serious or repeated accidents and for time examining preventative measures in serious and urgent situations.

Employee representatives on the health and safety committee are also entitled to three paid days of training (five days in workplaces with 300 or more employees) when they are first appointed and after they have served for a total of four years. Employee delegates with health and safety functions in workplaces with no health and safety committee have the same training rights.

The employer must provide the health and safety committee with other resources, such as a meeting room, to enable it to function effectively.

The health and safety committee also has the right to make use of an external expert, paid by the employer, when there is a serious hazard in the workplace or when there a major plan to modify health and safety arrangements or working conditions. In the case of a dispute, the courts decide whether an expert is necessary.

Protection against dismissal

Employee delegates and employee representatives on the health and safety committee can only be dismissed following an interview with the employer, consultation with the works council and with the permission of the local labour inspector.

Key legislation

Articles 4523, 4611, 4612 , 4614 and 4615 Labour Code

Articles L. 4523-1 à L. 4523-17, L. 4611-1 à L. 4614-16, R. 4523-1 à R. 4523-17 et R. 4612-1 à R. 4615-21 du Code du travail