French Employment Law: Defining and Dealing with Workplace Bullying

In France, bullying isn’t just an unpleasant form of physical or verbal harassment, it is a punishable crime. 

Because French law also explicitly provides for the protection of employees, victims of workplace bullying are duly protected and the perpetrators punished, regardless of their positions in the company.

What defines “harcèlement moral”?

In the workplace, harcèlement moral (or “moral harassment” as bullying is referred to in France) is defined under the French Labour Code as “repeated acts leading to a deterioration of working conditions and that are likely to harm the dignity, the physical, or psychological health of the victim or their professional career”. 

As such, repeated bullying is likely to result in an attack on the victim’s rights and dignity, altered physical or mental health, and/or a threat to their professional development.    Examples of workplace bullying could include regular and repeated insults, inappropriate messages, threats of dismissal, or unjustified withdrawal from an assignment.

It is important to underline the fact that where harcèlement moral is concerned, there are no professional distinctions or specific hierarchical relationships to account for.  The legal protections and punishments remain, whether the perpetrator is a colleague or a manager, and whether the victim is an employee, trainee, or apprentice. 

How must French employers deal with workplace bullying?

French employers have a legal obligation to take preventive action against harcèlement moral, under compulsory health and safety measures.  The accompanying obligation of result means that it is not enough for an employer to show that they have tried to stop bullying behaviour from occurring, they must actively make it stop. 

In doing so, employers may implement any measures they feel necessary to prevent bullying in their workplace.  For companies employing over 50 employees, such measures must be detailed in their internal regulations (règlement intérieur).  Their employees must also be informed of the measures through mandatory display.

What additional rules govern bullying in French workplaces?

Employers must work with staff representatives, and the CSE (social and economic committee) if appropriate, to prevent workplace bullying.  Additionally, as in the UK employees who report or attempt to fight bullying cannot be punished, unless they are acting in bad faith or making a report with the sole intent to cause harm.

Can we answer your questions about workplace bullying in France?

Our bilingual HR consultants have valuable experience in France and the UK, and will happily resolve any queries you may have about employing people in France. 

We also run free, regular English-speaking training sessions online, each of which deal with different aspects of French employment law.  View and register for our upcoming sessions here.

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