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French employment law: what is the role of the CSE in France

Updated: Apr 16

If your company employs 11 or more persons hired under French law, it must have a Social and Economic Committee (Comité Social et Économique, or CSE). The CSE in France is particularly relevant when it comes to group negotiations such as discussing collective agreements, restructuration or multiple redundancies. In short, its job is to implement the French code du travail (working code).


French redundancy law and the CSE
The CSE combines all internal union representatives and is backed up by the Code du Travail

What's the CSE

Created in 2018, the concept aimed to combine all internal union representatives and environmental ambassadors into one committee with responsibility to advise and implement the working code in the workplace.


Who is in the CSE?

The CSE is made up for representative elected amongst the staff for 4 years. The number and competencies of representatives depends on the size of the organisation, but it will generally involve incumbent and affiliate representatives of the different categories of workers (ie, management, engineers, labourers etc) grouped into 2 or more cohorts called “colleges”. The employer is also represented and, in the case of global organisations, a French interpreter may also be involved in the meetings.


What powers does the CSE have?

The CSE’s influence is mostly advisory. It represents the views of the workers and may implement projects to do with health and safety, working conditions or sustainability. It also has the right to alert to issues that may affect public health or the environment as well as the economic situation of the business or the rights of the workers. Don’t be tempted to ignore their advice, however. The CSE is backed up by the French Code du Travail (working code) and wouldn’t hesitate to report any infraction to it. Additionally, the minutes (once validated, which must happen within 15 days following a meeting) are a legal witness to any dispositions discussed or agreed between the employer’s and the workers’ representatives.


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FAQ: What if the CSE gives a negative position?

The employer’s legal obligation relates to the consultation process rather than the obtention of the CSE’s agreement. Regardless, you still have to respond in writing to any objections to the project given by the CSE. And whilst the CSE’s approval is not a necessity in most castes, beware that a rejection by the CSE is the expression of your staff’s lack of support towards the project, which could make things difficult in the long run.There are a few initiatives that cannot go ahead without the approval of the CSE, such as the implementation of flexitime, the appointment of a workplace doctor or health service, the redundancy of more than 10 employees before expiration of the CSE consultation period, the refusal of an employee’s application for training days.

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