French Labor Council Upholds Constitutional Rights in Sick Leave Dispute

The Council of Wise Men Judges Labor Code Consistency with Constitution for Paid Sick Leave

The Constitutional Council on Thursday ruled that the French Labor Code does not infringe on the principles of the Constitution, allowing for the continuation of a recent judgment that requires labor law to be revised so that employees on sick leave receive paid leave regardless of circumstances. Labor Minister Catherine Vautrin promised to comply with European legislation once the decision was known.

In his speech before the Council on January 30, State representative indicated that he wanted to limit the acquisition of paid leave by employees on sick leave to four weeks per year, in line with minimum duration at European level, compared to five weeks in France. The Sages had to determine whether two articles of the Labor Code infringed on the right to health and rest and principle of equality. The Council dismissed complaints regarding disregard for principle of equality before law and principle of rest guaranteed by preamble to 1946 Constitution.

Employer representatives argued against this change, stating that it would cost companies at least €2 billion per year. However, in a letter to Medef members in December, its president Patrick Martin obtained assurances from the Ministry of Labor that “the future compliance law” would limit accumulation of paid leave during periods of shutdown illness to four weeks per year, accompanied by “a right to carry over leave over a period of 15 months.”

For CGT, “this decision is obviously disappointing – symbolic censorship would have been welcome – but it does not change anything in rights currently applicable to employees.” Union emphasized in press release that contested provisions are buried as it is now clear they will be removed from current code.

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