France bans sexist comments at work

France has tightened up rules around sexist comments and sexual harassment in the workplace as part of a new law on work wellbeing.

France bans sexist comments at work

All work-related rules in France are governed by the Code du Travail, an enormous doorstop of a document that covers everything from eating a sandwich at your desk to working hours and holiday.

It’s also regularly revised and updated and the latest change comes courtesy of the Loi pour renforcer la prévention en santé au travail (Health and prevention at work reinforcement law) which came into force on March 31st 2022.

The Code du Travail now includes an expanded definition of what constitutes sexual harassment or sexist behaviour in the workplace.

  • Comments and behaviour with a sexist connotation ;
  • Comments and behaviour with sexual or sexist connotations by several people, in a concerted manner or at the instigation of one of them, even though each of these people has not acted repeatedly;
  • Comments or behaviours that happen successively, coming from several people who, even in the absence of concerted action, know that these comments or behaviours characterise a repetition.
  • Contrary to the Penal Code, this new definition does not require an intentional element to constitute sexual harassment. – sexual harassment in the workplace is defined by what is suffered by the employee, not by the intention of the perpetrator or perpetrators.

In order to comply with the law, employers must now update their internal guidance to reflect the changes. It is recommended, by not compulsory, that employers also offer training on what constitutes sexual harassment and ensure that there is a sexual harassment delegate on employee committees.

READ ALSO Workplace romance: The rules on dating colleagues in France

Despite its reputation as the country of l’amour, France has a major problem with sexual harassment – in particular women report being regularly harassed on the streets and on public transport.

Public transport operators have launched numerous initiatives and awareness campaigns in recent years.

In 2018 France made street harassment a criminal offence, with an on-the-spot fine of up to €1,500 for behaviours including catcalling, asking intrusive questions, unwanted following, “upskirting” (taking pictures under a woman’s skirt without her knowing) or even just commenting on a woman’s looks or clothing. 

However, enforcement of the law remains patchy.

READ ALSO Sexual harassment in France – is it truly worse than other countries?

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Heatwave sends France’s employees back to the office – for the air con

As France swelters under an unusually early heatwave many employees who had been working remotely since the pandemic have headed back to the office - in order to benefit from the air conditioning.

Heatwave sends France's employees back to the office - for the air con

Flexible working practices – a mix of in-office and at-home working – have become increasingly common in France since the Covid lockdowns proved that some jobs can be done just as easily from home as in the office. 

During the lockdowns, télétravail (remote working) was compulsory for those whose jobs allowed it, it then became recommended but since late 2021, flexible working practices and work-from-home has been a matter for discussion between workers and their bosses.

A study by Insurance firm Malakoff Humanis has found that 38 percent of employees in France still do at least one day of télétravail per week.

READ ALSO Can your boss force you to work during a heatwave in France?

But, with France currently burning under a ferocious early summer heatwave that is expected to send temperature records tumbling, office space is quickly filling up.

Air-con is rare in French homes, but many office spaces have it and workers are keen to avail themselves of the cool air.

“I came for the air conditioning because I didn’t need to come to work today,” one office worker in the capital told Le Parisien. “This Friday, I’m officially remote working, but I’ll be here [in the office].”

Météo France expected the temperature to reach 35C in the capital on Friday. In the southwest of the country, the mercury was expected to pass 40C in cities including Bordeaux and Toulouse.

One Bordeaux computer engineer told the paper: “At home, it gets hot pretty quickly, you can easily reach 30C. It’s much more pleasant to work with a regulated temperature, without abusing the air conditioning for ecological reasons.”

And a financial manager – working shirtless and in shorts in his top-floor apartment in Marseille – said he regretted not bothering going into the office as the heat bit. 

“If I open the windows, the hot wind blows in. When the windows are closed, I cook,” he said.