France passes groundbreaking Climate Change Law containing consequences for labour law

Published on : 30/09/2021 30 September Sep 09 2021

The groundbreaking Climate Law adopted at the end of August covers many different aspects of French society and the economy. It results from the propositions of “Citizen Convention”- 150 French nationals chosen randomly to debate and elaborate concrete measures to help in the fight against Climate Change.

The text is vast and cover everything from vegetarian meals in schools to domestic air trips, but some of these provisions modify certain human resources management practices which involve trade unions and works councils in the ecological transition! 

Below are the four key measures related to labour and employment law, followed by some of the challenges that they raise. 

Firstly, the climate law inserts the theme of the environment into the three-yearly periodic negotiations on the forward-looking management of jobs and skills (GPEC). 

From now on, these supplementary negotiations on GPEC at branch and company level will have to take into account the challenges of the ecological transition on jobs and skills. The objective is to make companies aware of the need to reconvert their activities and transform their professions in the context of the ecological transition.

The second point is the extension of the consultative powers of the Works Council (CSE).
In companies with at least 50 employees, the employer must now integrate the environmental impact of its decisions in the information and consultation procedures of the CSE. In concrete terms, each topic subject to information and consultation of the CSE must take into account the environmental consequences of the company's activities. This concerns the specific consultations (related to the organization, management and general operation of the company), but also the 3 recurrent consultations on strategic orientations, the economic and financial situation and social policy. 

Thirdly, the economic and social data base becomes the economic, social and environmental data base. 
Its content is enriched by a new theme entitled "environmental consequences of the company's activity". A decree should complete the regulatory provisions of the Labor Code to take into account this new theme of the database. 

Fourth point, the mission of the expert accountant. 
The CSE can call upon a chartered accountant for consultation on the strategic orientations, on the economic and financial situation and on the social policy of the company. Within the framework of these consultations, the mission of the expert, which concerns all the elements of an economic, financial or social nature, is extended to the environmental consequences of the company's activity. 

The economic training course for the first elected members of the CSE can also concern the environmental consequences of the activity of the companies. 

Challenges and reactions

Like all new legislation, this text raises some doubts and queries. 

The CSE must now be systematically informed of “environmental consequences” of projects. 

This is evidently a major move in French industries that are significant contributors to environmental degradation through carbon emissions: automobile companies, aeronautics, freight and cargo, the oil and gas giants, and banks. But will this measure also be of interest in other industries? Will it be relevant for the vast variety of measures dealt with by the CSE such as layoffs, or even day-to-day workplace matters? Time will tell. 
There’s also the question of what exactly is encompassed by “environmental consequences”: the term is vague and will probably lead to confusion and disagreements at the beginning of the law’s application, as some businesses gain familiarity with these issues. 

The technical aspects of environmental expertise will also require training and the mobilization of many experts. Indeed, the classic “accountant experts” that the CSE can call upon must suddenly develop a whole new category of services related to environmental consequences. 

These measures highlight the importance of developing these analyses internally and establishing CSR as a key part of the company’s operations. 

It would seem that HR, Staff Representatives, Legal Counsel and even the Accountant Experts are all going to be getting lessons in Climate Change Law. 
   
Flichy Grangé Avocats is ready to assist companies in the implementation of the obligations resulting from the Loi Climat and with their CSR policies in general. 

 

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