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French labour reforms ‘do nothing’ to promote gender equality

© Matthieu Alexandre / AFP | French Employment Minister Myriam El Khomri presents her proposed reforms in November 2015.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-03-08

Activists launched an online petition on International Women’s Day on Tuesday against controversial proposed reforms to France’s employment law, which they say “contain no measures to eliminate inequality” in the workplace.

The draft law, named after its main sponsor Employment Minister Myriam El Khomri, is aimed at increasing flexibility for employers in a bid to reduce France’s 10.3 percent unemployment.

But it has proved unpopular with unions and youth groups – youth unemployment in France is among the highest in Europe – who say that the law will fail in its primary mission to create jobs.

For feminist groups, the text of the bill is also woefully lacking in measures to promote gender equality.

The site Inegaleloitravail.fr (meaning ‘unequal labour law’), launched on International Women’s Day, has been signed by leaders of French women’s rights associations, academics and businesswomen.

They argue that by reducing employers’ obligations to employees, women’s rights in the workplace will inevitably suffer.

The reforms, they say, would cut mandatory overtime payments (from 25% to 10%), which would particularly affect women “who are more represented in part-time work, and who often rely on overtime payments to make ends meet”.

Discriminatory?

The 86 signatories also complain that the law would make it easier for employers to change work schedules, potentially discriminating against working mothers.

“This law will make it easier to sack female employees who cannot accept the flexibility imposed on them,” the signatories write.

The government is this week meeting with unions and employers’ groups to discuss the fine print of the proposed law, which has yet to be debated by the French parliament.

Many believe that French employers are loath to take on permanent workers because of the numerous obstacles to laying them off if the company experiences financial difficulties.

The reforms spell out simple conditions such as falling orders or sales, or operating losses, as sufficient cause for redundancies.

Currently, French companies have to justify plans to lay off workers in court, if the decision is taken because of an economic downturn, a process which they say makes them reluctant to hire in the first place.

Date created : 2016-03-08

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