On 22 August 2021, the French Parliament adopted the Climate and Resilience Law ("2021 Climate Law"). Since being passed, employee representative bodies must now be informed and consulted on the environmental consequences of any major project considered by an employer.
There will be a large number of projects that will now require this prior employee consultation, and many companies established in France will be impacted.
Affected projects will include any which impact “the general running of the company”, for example any project likely to affect the number of employees (downsizing plan), changes in the economic or legal organisation (merger, cession, demerger), the introduction of new technology or any important development in health and safety conditions or working conditions.
Requirements for companies
Any project which requires prior consultation of the works council must now include an environmental impact analysis of the project in the information sent to the employee representative bodies.
In addition, each year, the works council must receive information about the environmental impacts of the company’s activity.
What are the consequences if companies do not comply?
The legal provisions do not provide direct sanctions for failing to consider environmental impacts in a major project submitted for consultation to employee representatives.
Based on previous case law, particularly on the obligation to analyse the impacts in terms of health and safety, it is very likely that failure to consider the environmental effects will lead to the suspension of the information-consultation process and consequently to the suspension of the project, delaying its implementation.
For example, if a works council brings an action before a tribunal during the information-consultation process for the employer to produce additional information on the project's environmental impacts any employeer who tries to force through the project could be held criminally liable for obstructing the powers of the works council.
In the more specific context of downsizing plans, which in France are subject to prior authorisation by the labour inspectorate, the latter could refuse to approve such a plan, or the judge could revoke such authorisation if a sufficiently serious analysis of the environmental impacts has not been carried out.
Find out more
This article was produced by Nicolas Chenevoy Martin, Associate lawyer Labor law specialist, at Fidere Avocats, France, a CELIA Alliance member firm.
CELIA Alliance members are identified here. Members of the CELIA Alliance are each independent law firms and do not practice law jointly with any other member of the CELIA Alliance. "CELIA Alliance" and "CELIA" are not trading names. For more information about the CELIA Alliance click here.
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