Preventing Workplace Bullying in France

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France is known to have some of the world’s strongest legal protections against bullying – whether physical, mental, or emotional – in the workplace. 

Key components of French anti-bulling legislation include:

  • Employers must take active steps to prevent bullying at work – they must stop bullying from continuing and not just try to stop it.
  • It doesn’t matter if the bullying is intentional or not.
  • Regardless of the preventive measures taken, employers are held responsible for employees who bully.
  • Bullied employees are able to claim damages both from the employer, and from the bully themselves.

Droit d’alerte

Members of the Employee Representation Committee, known as the Comité Social et Économique (CSE) in France, have a recognised right of warning (droit d’alerte) in the event of bullying.  They can refer the incident to the employer, who must then carry out an immediate investigation.

It is advisable for the employer to include the CSE in said investigation, as well as any direct action taken to combat bullying.  Indeed, in companies employing at least 50 people the CSE may take any initiative it deems necessary in proposing actions that prevent bullying, sexual harassment, and sexist behaviour.  Should the employer disagree, their refusal must be formally justified.

The role of occupational health

An employee who is affected by bullying may either be referred directly to occupational health, or ask for its assistance directly.

If that employee’s physical or mental health is deemed to be impaired, the occupational physician (médecin du travail) may propose individual measures, such as job adjustment, regular monitoring, or temporary unfitness to work, whilst fully respecting medical confidentiality.

The occupational physician may also invoke their recognised duty to alert, if the problem of bullying affects several employees in the company.  They must inform the employer in writing, with a response also expected in writing.  It should be noted that employee representatives will have access to these documents.

How must employers prevent workplace bullying?

The prevention of bullying and workplace violence forms part of the set legal framework for the prevention of psychosocial risks.  Therefore, as mentioned above it is imperative that employers take active steps to stop workplace bullying. 

Such prevention should be based on a thorough assessment of risk factors and the implementation (and regular monitoring of) a clear, collective action plan.  This allows long-term action to be taken on the issues of stress, bullying, and violence at work.

The process of prevention may be initiated at the time of the assessment of occupational risks, following a complaint or a relevant declared health hazard, or during a time of major change in the organisation.

Règlement intérieur

For companies with more than 50 employees, their internal regulations (règlement intérieur) must legally include provisions for the prevention of bullying. Measures should be clearly stated to prevent and deal with problems as they arise.

Additionally, codes or policies of good conduct can be drawn up; though these must not criticise individual behaviour or be the sole responsibility of employees. 

Can we help you prevent bullying in your French workplace?

Our team of experienced, bilingual consultants are happy to answer your questions as part of a free initial consultation.

Please contact us to arrange a convenient date and time.

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