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The gender pay gap in France – what the government plans to do

Written by
Capstan Avocats, the law firm setting the benchmark for labour law in France.
The French government has set out a ten-point action plan to combat the gender pay gap, including increased transparency requirements, a concrete methodology to calculate wage disparities, more frequent monitoring by the labour inspectorate and sanctions for non-compliance. The details are set out below.

On 9 May 2018, Muriel Pénicaud, the French Minister of Labour, and Marlène Schiappa, Minister of Gender Equality, presented a ten-point action plan to end the unjustified wage gap (9% at national level), concluding the government consultation on equal pay. Action points that require legislative measures will be included in a law for ‘the freedom to choose a professional future’.

The ten steps announced to end the unjustified wage gap and to further professional equality between women and men are set out below.

1. Applying the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’, at last

The principle of equal pay for equal work, which has been law for 45 years, will shift from a best-efforts obligation to a requirement to show results (today the gender pay gap rate for workers in equivalent positions and of the same age is 9%).

In order to develop objective criteria for calculating wage gaps, a common methodology will be introduced for all companies with more than 50 employees: from 1 January 2019 for companies with more than 250 employees, and from 1 January 2020 for companies with companies between 50 and 250 employees*.

Muriel Pénicaud has entrusted Sylvie Leyre, Schneider Electric’s HR Director, with a mission to define the methods for implementing this common methodology. The deadline is June 2018. A test phase will be implemented in September 2018.

In the event that wage gaps persist, companies will have to set aside a wage ‘catch-up’ budget for women; the maximum period for compliance will be three years. The catch-up budget will be negotiated within the framework of negotiations on professional equality and quality of life at work*.

In the event of non-compliance that persists until 2022, labour inspectorate sanctions will no longer be imposed only in relation to the current best-efforts obligation, but also on the requirement for results.

2.Transparency requirement

An obligation for companies to be transparent in the presentation of their results with regard to equal pay will be established:

  • Companies will have to publish their overall score on the unexplained pay gap on their website*.
  • A method of publishing data on the gross gender pay gap will need to be implemented*.
  • The elected representatives of the social and economic committee and trade union representatives will have access to this data, job category by job category.

3.Training provision for part-time workers

More training rights will be established for part-time employees, most of whom are women. All employees working part-time or more will enjoy the same rights regarding their personal training account as full-time employees*. Women now account for 80% of part-time employees: they will therefore be the principal beneficiaries of these new rights.

4.Equality action as part of departmental annual review

Each department of a company will be required to report on the action it has taken to promote professional equality during its annual review*, in particular on classification of job types, the promotion of gender diversity and professional qualification certificates, in order to support women’s career paths. The management team will monitor the activity of each department in this area.

A methodology on good bargaining practices will also be promoted to social partners (trade unions and employers’ representatives).

5. Increased inspection and monitoring

Checks and inspections by the labour inspectorate will multiply by four, passing from 1,730 to 7,000 inspections a year. The additional inspections will focus solely on the topic of professional equality and wages, which is one of the four priorities of the inspectorate.

6. ‘Apply or explain’ equality rule for listed companies

For publicly listed companies, the governing bodies will be made accountable for implementing the ‘apply (equality) or explain’, principle during compensation committee and board of directors’ meetings, for results relating to equal pay*.

7. Mandatory disclosure of highest-level management gender balance for listed companies

It will be mandatory for publicly listed companies to disclose annual information (provided by the board of directors) on gender diversity in the top management of the company*.

8.Combatting stereotypes

Stereotypes, particularly with regard to hiring, will be challenged by distributing guides that will be made available to companies, departments and regional inter-professional joint committees.

9.Measures to improve work-life balance

Better work-life balance will be encouraged through promoting good practice (time management, remote working) and by examining the arrangements for taking maternity, paternity and parental leave based on the ongoing work of experts.

10.Support the draft work-life balance Directive

At the European level, France will support the draft Directive on the work-life balance of parents and care-takers, for a strong and active social Europe in favour of professional equality*.

* denotes EU, legislative or regulatory measures

Source : www.travail.emploi.gouv.fr