French employment Law: AI week

A HR guide to implementing new AI technologies in the company: compulsory consultations with the Social and Economic Committee

In the long term, it is likely that AI will be used on a daily basis by companies and will eventually replace our traditional working tools. The implementation of AI technologies could have lasting effects on a company’s internal organization (impact on the employees’ working time, on the internal reporting processes and even on the very nature of the work).

Such turmoil is somewhat reminiscent of the migration to the internet which deeply impacted the way of working of many companies in the 2000s.

Should a company decide to change their business model and to introduce AI into their daily operations, they must make sure to partner with the Social and Economic Committee (SEC) beforehand as staff representatives are supposed to be consulted on any matter that may have an impact on the general running of the company.

More precisely, article L.2312-8 of the French Labour Code provides that the SEC, whose role is “to ensure that employees are able to express their views collectively so that their interests are taken into account on an ongoing basis in decisions relating to the management and economic and financial development of the company, the organisation of work, vocational training and production techniques”, is informed and consulted on matters concerning the organisation, management and general running of the company, in particular on “(…) the introduction of new technologies (…)”.

When initiating this consultation process, the employer must present to the SEC the detailed project related to the implementation of new AI technologies within the company and its impact on employment and on the working conditions of employees.

Please note that such consultation must be organized before the effective implementation of the project. Otherwise, the SEC may request interim measures to suspend the project until it has been duly consulted and/or file an official complaint on the ground that the employer has obstructed its functioning and prerogatives.

You should bear in mind that the consultation of the SEC on any given project is subject to certain time limitations. In this regard, the SEC must provide its official opinions within 1 month from the date of transmission of the information to the SEC (being noted that this deadline can be extended up to 2 months should the SEC ask for an expert’s opinion).

Passing these time limitations, the SEC is presumed to have been consulted and have given a negative opinion. Note also that these time limitations can be fixed differently by collective agreements or be extended by the judge if deemed necessary.

Reminder: Although consultation with the SEC is compulsory, the SEC’s opinions are not binding. The consultation is merely a procedural formality that must be complied with but does not substantially have any impact on the implementation of AI new technologies within the company.