Labour inspection in France: how to act

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Mélanie Roque Martins

In France, many Spanish companies from diverse sectors, which work with subsidiaries or branches or relocate their workers, are regularly subject to labour inspections.

Under French law, labour inspection is carried out mainly by the “labour inspection control civil servants”, who are members of the labour inspectorate.

To carry out their tasks (control, inform, advise, harmonise and decide), the labour inspection control agents are subject to a number of obligations: impartiality, confidentiality of allegations, etc., and also have rights including protection against the obstacles found when discharging their duties.

Therefore, labour inspectors are entitled to enter and visit[1] the place where the company carries out its activity (premises, construction site, etc.). They can freely enter companies at any time during the day or night, without prior notice. Consequently, when they want to make an inspection, they are not obliged to inform in advance.

Nevertheless, one of the inspectors’ obligations is that they must inform of their presence at the company. In practice, they usually ask the company officer or representative to accompany them during their visit to the facilities. The representatives are not obliged to accept but it is advisable to do this so that they can state their objections or provide the explanations deemed fit.

Accompanying labour inspectors is a good opportunity to obtain information and receive advice from them. In fact, labour inspectors not only have an enforcement function but their duties also include helping employers to comply with their obligations.

Labour inspectors can also question the employees at the company’s premises, on their own or in the presence of witnesses, and check their identity.

Likewise, labour inspectors can examine all the company’s mandatory documentation[2]. In fact, they are authorised to request any labour documents to verify their lawfulness (salaries, employment contracts, the documentation required for worker relocations, etc.). Employers must be ready to provide inspectors with all the documents requested.

Employers cannot refuse the inspection, and may even commit the crime of obstruction punishable by law. Obstruction can also be committed when, despite the requests from labour inspectors, employers persist in not complying with their labour obligations[3].

Lastly, labour inspectors can conduct analyses or take samples of the products distributed or used at the company.

Once the inspection is completed, if all the documentation requested was not received, labour inspectors can request this by post.

For example, when a Spanish company relocates workers to France, it is obliged to have a representative within the framework of the relocation. That representative is the liaison between the French administration and the company. The representative must have the mandatory documentation ready to be submitted in the event of an inspection. In that case, if the documentation is not at the workplace, inspectors usually request it afterwards.

If inspectors establish that the company has committed an offence, they draft a report stating that an administrative penalty must be inflicted. That report must specify the legal regulations that have been breached and the offences that have been established and considered to have been committed.

After that report, the company has the possibility of refuting this and submitting the justifications deemed fit. This is where legal advice is warranted to verify whether or not the legal analysis made by the inspection was lawful.

After examining the company’s response, inspectors submit a new report stating the administrative penalty to be applied, based on the specific events verifying the employer’s offence.

At this point, employers are ready to reply with the information deemed fit.

Lastly, the labour inspectorate notifies its penalty decision, always taking into account the company’s arguments. The penalty can be appealed at the French Administrative Court.

If you want more information about this or need advice, please contact us.

[1] Article R8113-1 of the French Labour Code.

[2] Article D8113-2 and subsequent of the French Labour Code.

[3] (Court of Cassation, 14/04/2015, RG 15.83265).

Employment and Labour Law|French Desk description Article