In a case recently put to them, the French Supreme Court had to assess the impact of the employer’s failure to monitor the work and private life balance of employees working under a working time in days scheme (“forfait-jours”). On April 13, 2023, the Court held that such a failure necessarily caused some harm to the employees.
Article L.4121 of the French Labour Code requires employers to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety and protect the physical and mental health of their employees. This obligation requires the implementation of preventive measures adapted to the employee’s specific needs considering the duties performed.
Employees working under a working time in days scheme (so called “forfait-jours”) require specific attention from the employer since they are not protected by a defined work schedule. The company must inter alia monitor the work / private life balance and therefore organize regular annual meetings with the employee in this respect.
After being dismissed, an executive employee working as a global key account manager, filed a claim before the Employment Tribunal, claiming damages for breach of the employer’s safety obligation.
The Paris Court of Appeal dismissed the employee’s claim, ruling that it was not demonstrated that his workload was too high so that his workload had to be deemed normal. This ruling was based on the facts that the employee’s manager:
- gave him reasonable time to deal with her requests and that no immediate answer late at night or on week-ends was required;
- told him on two occasions that if he was unable to carry out certain tasks, he should report it to her, expressly offering her help.
The employee appealed against the decision, pointing out that the employer had not actually implemented any system for monitoring his employees’ workload.
The French Supreme Court overruled the Court of Appeal’s decision, holding that workload monitoring fell within the scope of the employer’s safety obligation.
Therefore, an employer who fails to provide evidence of the implementation of annual meetings aimed at discussing the employee’s workload and work / private life balance, is necessarily in breach of their safety obligation.
As a result, the employee may be entitled to compensation, provided that an arm resulting from this breach is demonstrated.
- The working time in days scheme may be a very efficient tool but should be used with caution, keeping in mind that the flexibility given to employers comes with responsibilities towards employees.