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Health and Safety Representation

Employee representation on health and safety issues in the private sector is now provided through the Social and Economic Committee, the single body covering all areas where employees have representation rights, rather than a separate health and safety committee. These new arrangements began to come into effect in January 2018. In the public services, the key body for employee representation on these issues continues to be a separate health and safety committee.

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. Contributing to this is one of the roles of the Social and Economic Committee in the private sector, and a key role of the health and safety committee in the public services.

 

Employee health and safety bodies

 

In the private sector, dealing with health and safety issues is now one of the tasks of the Social and Economic Committee (Comité Social et Économique – CSE), rather than being the responsibility of a separate health and safety committee (comité d’hygiène, de sécurité et des conditions de travail – CHSCT) as in the past. Following the changes, which came into effect in January 2018, three separate bodies representing employees at the workplace – the health and safety committee (CHSCT), the employee delegates (DP) and the works council CE) – have been merged into one, the Social and Economic Committee (CSE). In larger companies, those with 300 or more employees, a sub-committee of the Social and Economic Committee dealing specifically with health, safety and working conditions (CSSCT) must also be formed

 

In the public services, separate health and safety committees (CHSCT) continue to exist, although the rules, according to which they operate, vary between the three areas of public service: central government (Fonction publlique de l’État – FPE), regional and local government (Fonction publique territorial – FPT) and the hospital service (Fonction publique hospitalière – FPH).

Numbers and structure

 

In the private sector a Social and Economic Committee (CSE) must be set up in all companies with at least 11 employees, although its rights and duties vary with the number of employees, with two thresholds – 50 employees and 300.

 

The Social and Economic Committee (CSE) is a joint body consisting of the employer, who chairs it and who may be accompanied by up to three colleagues, and elected representatives of the employees. The number of employee representatives is set out precisely in the legislation, starting with a single representative in companies with between 11 and 24 employees, rising in stages to 35 in a company with 10,000 employees. For example a company with 500 employees will have 13 employee representatives on the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) and one with 1,000 will have 17.

 

Number of employees

Number of employee representatives

11 to 24

1

25 to 49

2

50 to 74

4

75 to 99

5

100 to 124

6

125 to 149

7

150 to 174

8

175 to 199

9

200 to 249

10

250 to 299

11

300 to 399

11

400 to 999

1 more for each additional 100 employees

1,000 to 2,499

1 more for each additional 250 employees

2,500 to 3,999

1 more for each additional 500 employees

4,000 to 9,999

Additional members although steps are uneven

10,000

35

 

As well as the employee representatives elected by the workforce (see below), in companies with fewer than 300 employees, the trade union delegate (DS) is also entitled to be a member of the Social and Economic Committee (CSE). In companies with 300 or more employees, each representative trade union organisation (in other words each union whose candidates have the support of at least 10% of those voting in the election of employee representatives) can send a representative to the Social and Economic Committee (CSE).

 

In companies with more than 300 employees, a health, safety and working conditions committee (commission santé, sécurité et conditions de travail – CSSCT) must be set up to take on most of the health and safety responsibilities of the Social and Economic Committee (CSE). It must also be established in smaller companies if they operate in a particularly dangerous industry, or if the labour inspectorate decides that this is necessary.

 

This health, safety and working conditions committee is a joint body, chaired by the employer or the employer’s representative. Other individuals can accompany the employer to this health and safety committee but their total number cannot exceed the number of employee representatives.

 

The employee representatives on the health, safety and working conditions committee (CSSCT) are chosen by the Social and Economic Committee (CSE), from among the members of that committee. There must be at least three employee representatives, including one representative of more senior staff, but the detailed arrangements, in terms of numbers and functioning, are left for negotiations between the employer and the union delegates. If there is no union delegate, they are to be negotiated with the Social and Economic Committee (CSE), and, if these negotiations are unsuccessful, the Social and Economic Committee fixes the rules.

In the public services, where employee representation in the area of health and safety was not changed by the legislation which came into effect in January 2018, joint employer-employee health and safety committees (CHSCT) continue to play a crucial role, although the numbers and structures vary between the three public services. In central government, health and safety committees, which have between three and nine employee representatives, must be set up at central and ministerial level and in each public establishment with sufficient staff. In local and regional government, health and safety committees are obligatory at all organisations with at least 50 staff, and have between three and 10 employee representatives, depending on the number employed.  In the hospital services too, the threshold is 50, and, as well as between three and nine employee representatives, there are also representatives of doctors, pharmacists and dentists.

 

These health and safety committees in the public services are chaired by a representative of the employers, and include members representing the employer. In local and regional government, for example, there are the same number of representatives of the local authority as employee representatives.

 

Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2014 found that, under the previous structure, where there was a separate health and safety committee (CHSCT), 25% of workplaces in France had such a body. This is slightly above the EU-28 average of 21% of workplaces with health and safety committees. (The figures are for workplaces with five or more employees.)[1]  It is too soon to know how the new structure will work.

Tasks and rights

 

In the private sector, the role of the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) in the area of health and safety varies depending on whether there are fewer than 50 employees, between 50 and 299 employees, or 300 or more employees.

 

In companies with 11 or more but fewer than 50 employees, the employee members of the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) have a right to promote health and safety and the improvement of working conditions in the company and to carry out investigations relating to accidents or the incidence of occupational diseases. They also have the right to draw attention to threats to health and safety, including as a result of bullying or sexual harassment, and to ask the employer to remedy the situation. In addition, they have the right to inform the labour inspectorate of any concerns they have about how regulations are being applied. More specifically, the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) should be informed when the employer has been sent the results of various official inspections, as well as being given access to those results. Where the committee undertakes investigations into accidents or the incidence of occupational diseases, these enquiries should be undertaken jointly by the employer (or the employer’s representative) and at least one employee representative.

 

In companies with 50 employees or more, the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) must be informed and consulted on a wide range of issues, some of which are specifically relevant to health and safety. These include: working conditions, particular the length of working time; the introduction of new technology; and all important changes affecting health and safety and working conditions.

 

In particular, in companies with 50 employees or more the committee should:

  • analyse working conditions and occupational hazards faced by employees (particularly pregnant women);
  • help to improve women’s access to all occupations, resolve problems linked to maternity and help make work accessible to the disabled; and
  • support all initiatives intended to prevent bullying and sexual harassment, as well as sexist behaviour.

 

Some other tasks which were previously the responsibility of the health and safety committee under the previous structure (CHSCT), such as protecting the physical and mental health and safety of employees and analysing working conditions, are not part of the responsibilities of the Social and Economic Committee (CSE).

 

In companies with 50 employees or more, the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) must carry out regular health and safety inspections, and it investigates accidents at work or cases of occupational disease or illness linked to work, where they occur. It can make use of the advice of any employee of the company if it seems appropriate, and it can also ask to speak to neighbouring employers if their activities affect the company’s employees.

 

In companies with 50 employees or more, the employer must also provide the 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 Social and Economic Committee (CSE) with an annual plan setting out proposals to reduce risks and improve working conditions. (These are part of the overall responsibility of the employer to report annually on a wide range of social conditions in the company.)  In response to this report, the committee can propose the priority to be given to the actions planned and also make additional suggestions.

 

As in smaller companies, each member of the committee in companies with 50 employees or more also has also the right to draw attention to threats to health and safety, including as a result of bullying or sexual harassment, and to ask the employer to remedy the situation.

 

Where a committee for health, safety and working conditions (CSSCT) has been set up, required in companies with 300 employees or more and in certain other circumstances (see above), the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) can delegate all or part of its health and safety responsibilities to this committee. However, the body for formal consultation with the employer continues to be the Social and Economic Committee (CSE), and it is the CSE which has the responsibility for asking for external expertise (see below).

 

In the public services, the precise tasks and rights of the health and safety committee (CHSCT) vary between the three services, but, in broad terms, the committee must be consulted about important changes affecting health, safety and working conditions, as well as the annual report from the employer on health and safety and working conditions, and the annual plan for future action. It has a right to visit and/or inspect areas for which it is responsible and particularly to carry out inspections following accidences or instances of occupational disease. The committee also carries out its own assessment of risks and can make proposals for improvements, particularly in the area of psychosocial risks, such as stress, bullying and sexual harassment.

 

Frequency of meetings

 

The frequency of meetings of the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) is set by negotiation. However, if there is no agreement, it must meet at least one a month in companies with 300 employees or more and once every two months in smaller companies. At least four of these meetings must deal with health and safety issues and these issues must be covered more often in companies where health and safety risks are higher. In addition Social and Economic Committee (CSE) should meet and discuss health and safety following any serious accident or potential accident, or after any event with an impact or potential impact on the environment or public safety. It should also meet if two employee members call for it to meet.

 

The frequency of meetings of the committee for health, safety and working conditions (CSSCT), where one exists, is determined by negotiation or, in the final instance, by decision of the Social and Economic Committee (CSE).

 

In public services, the health and safety committee must meet at least three times a year in central government and in local and regional government, and four times a year in hospital services

 

Election and term of office

 

Employee representatives on the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) 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 committee for health, safety and working conditions (CSSCT) are chosen by the Social and Economic Committee (CSE), from among the members of that committee.

 

For a period, the pre-2018 structure, with three separate employee representative bodies, including a separate health and safety committee, will continue to exist alongside the new structure. However, it is intended that the new structure based on the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) will be universal by 1 January 2020.

 

In public services, the employee members of the health and safety committees are designated by the unions in line with their support in elections for wider employee representative bodies, known as comités techniques. In all three public services, the term of office of members of the health and safety committee is four years., 

Resources, time off and training

 

Employee members of the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) are entitled to paid time off, which varies with the number of employees. In companies with between 11 and 49 employees each member is entitled to 10 hours a month. In larger companies the amount of time off increases, rising to 34 hours a month per employee representative in companies with 9,750 or more employees. For example, in a company with 250 employees, 11 representatives are each entitled to 22 hours a month – a total of 242 hours a month; in a company with 500, 13 representatives are entitled to 24 each – a total of 312; and in a company with 1,000 employees, 17 representatives are entitled to 24 hours each – a total of 408. These hours can be shared as wished between members of the committee, but they cover all the responsibilities of the Social and Economic Committee (CSE), not just health and safety.

The employer must provide the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) with other resources, such as a meeting room, to enable it to function effectively.

 

The Social and Economic Committee (CSE) also has the right to make use of an external expert, where major changes to health and safety arrangements or working conditions are planned by the employer. The employer pays the bulk of the cost (80%) with the remaining 20% paid by the committee. In the case of a dispute, the courts decide whether an expert is necessary. It is the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) not the committee for health and safety and working conditions (CSSCT) which chooses to ask for the use of an expert.

 

Employee representatives on the committee for health, safety and working conditions (CSSCT) are entitled a paid period of training, which should help them assess risks, and eliminate or reduce them, as well as improving working conditions. Those dealing with health on safety on the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) have the same right to training. The amount provided varies with the number employed – five days for each four-year period of office in companies with 300 or more employees, three days in smaller companies.

 

In public services, the resources, time off and training available to employee members of health and safety committees (CHSCT) are similar to similar to those of their counterparts in the private sector. The employer must provide the committee with the resources to enable it to fulfil its tasks, as well as time off, which varies with the number of employees. For example in the hospital service, time off ranges from two hours per month per committee member in organisations with fewer than 100 staff, to 20 hours a month, in those with 1,500 employees or more. The employee representatives can decide among themselves how this time off will be shared. Employee members of health and safety committees in the public services are also entitled to five days’ training over their period of office. In addition, the committee can ask for the involvement of an external expert, paid for by the employer, where major changes are being proposed or where there has been an accident or a case of an occupational disease. There are mechanisms for resolving disagreements between the committee members and the employer on the need for an external expert, but the details vary between the three services.

Protection against dismissal

 

In the private sector, employee representatives on the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) can only be dismissed following an interview with the employer, consultation with the committee and with the permission of the local labour inspector.

 

In public services, employee representatives on the health and safety committee (CHSCT), who are on standard employment contracts, similarly cannot de dismissed without the permission of the labour inspector. Those who have special employment status as civil servants have other more general protections against dismissal.

Other elements of workplace health and safety

 

French legislation emphasises the duty of employers to ensure the safety and protect the health, both physical and mental, of their employees. Among other things, the employer is obliged to draw up a written risk assessment, the single risk assessment document (DUER), which must be updated at least annually. Employers in the private sector must appoint a competent employee to deal with risk prevention and protection, and if the appropriate skills are not available within the workforce, external experts can be used.

 

Employees in the private sector must also have access to an occupational health service (service de santé au travail). This can be provided internally in companies with 500 employees or more, but smaller companies must belong to a multi-company occupational health service (service de santé au travail interentreprise – SSTI), with the obligations and rights of the two sides set out in a long-term contract known as a CPOM.

 

In the public services, there is a network of health and safety advisers and assistant advisers (conseillers de prévention et assistants de prévention) who provide support and expertise in the area of health and safety, with the assistants working at local level and the more senior advisers having a coordinating role. These advisers have specialised training and one of their responsibilities can be to draw up the risk assessment document. Public sector employees also have access to occupational health services.

 

National context

 

At ministerial level, responsibility for health and safety at work is shared between the Ministry of Labour (Ministère du Travail)  and the Ministry of Solidarity and Health (Ministère des Solidarités et de la Santé).[2] The responsibility for monitoring compliance with health and safety laws and regulations lies with the Labour Inspectorate (Inspection du travail), which also enforces employment legislation more generally. There are also a number of government agencies which support health and safety promotion, training and research, in particular the National Institute for research and safety (Institut national de recherche et de sécurité –  INRS),  the National Agency for the improvement of working conditions (Agence nationale pour l'amélioration des conditions de travail – ANACT), and the Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail – ANSES).

 

In addition to the general process of social dialogue, which gives unions and employers a consultative role in social policy, trade unions and employers are able to influence health and safety policy through their membership of the Guidance Council for Working Conditions (Conseil d’orientation des conditions de travail – COCT). The employers’ associations and the unions each have eight seats on the 42-member body, with the rest taken by government representatives (both national and local) and representatives of the health and safety agencies (11 seats), and health and safety experts (15 seats).[3]

 

In the public services unions have a direct role in developing health and safety policy through their membership of the bodies which each service has as part of its consultative structure.  These include the central committee on health, safety and working conditions (Commission centrale de l'hygiène, de la sécurité et des conditions de travail), present in both central government and the hospital service, and the higher council (Conseil supérieur), which exists in all three services.

 

The main French legislation on health and safety, contained in the Labour Code (Articles L.4121-1 to L.4121-5), does not refer specifically to psychosocial risks, although harassment (harcèlement moral) is added as one of the factors related to the working environment where employers need to develop a coherent overall prevention policy, and “sexist behaviour” (agissements sexistes) has been added by the 2016 Loi travail. However, as well as legislation, the government has extended two separate collective agreements on stress and harassment and violence at work, making them binding on all employers and workers. It also signed an agreement on psychosocial risks in the public sector in 2013.

Key legislation

 

Labour Code, Book III: Representative employee institutions

Labour Code, Fourth Part: Health and safety at work

 

Code du travail, Livre III : Les institutions représentatives du personnel

Code du travail, Quatrième partie : Santé et sécurité au travail

[1] Second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2016

[2][2] Safer and healthier work at any age Country Inventory: France, by Marc Loriol, Lise Oulès and Elena Fries-Tersch, EU-OSHA,, 2015

[3] For more information on the national context see  OSH system at national level – France by Philippe Jandrot, OSH Wiki  https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/OSH_system_at_national_level_-_France

L. Fulton (2018) Health and safety representation in Europe. Labour Research Department and ETUI (online publication). Produced with the assistance of the Workers' Interest Group of the Advisory Committee for Safety and Health at Work (of the EU Commission). Online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.