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(IPP Policy Brief n°29) French employment tribunals : can the disparity of their decisions be explained?

IPP Policy Brief n°29

November 2017

Authors : Thomas Breda, Esther Chevrot-Bianco, Claudine Desrieux, Romain Espinosa

Contact : thomas.breda@psemail.eu

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logo-pdf-minFrench employment tribunals : can the disparity of their decisions be explained?

 

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Summary:

The uncertainty about the outcomes of proceedings before France’s employment tribunals (“les conseils de prud’hommes”, also known as “les prud’hommes”) is often pointed to as a possible damper on hiring of new staff. This uncertainty would appear to be generated in part by the fact that similar cases brought before them seem to be judged differently from one time to another or from one tribunal to another. After recalling the historic aim of the “institution prud’homale”, the way it works, and recent changes to it, this policy brief shows that the decisions rendered by the French employment tribunals do indeed vary strongly from one tribunal to another. However, the source of this variability remains in doubt: it might equally well reflect the arbitrary nature of “prud’homale” justice as the fact that the cases judged by the various tribunals are of different natures and of different seriousness. Finally, this policy brief uses the work of Desrieux and Espinosa to show that union membership of the judges elected by employees does not influence the decisions rendered by the French employment tribunals. These findings make it possible to dismiss a possible source of partiality in the justice rendered by the various tribunals.

Key Points:

  • “Les prud’hommes” are taking increasingly long to hand down justice, in particular because they are managing less and less to reconcile the parties through conciliation, and are thus increasingly having to use judgments.
  • The length of proceedings, use of judgments, and the decisions rendered vary very strongly from one tribunal to another. However, uncertainty remains about the causes of these variations.
  • Union membership of the judges elected by employees does not influence the decisions rendered by the various different tribunals. In particular, the tribunals in which the unions that are considered to be more confrontational are the best represented do not render more decisions favourable to employees.