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COVID-19 Epidemic: Enactment of the Health Emergency Law

March 24, 2020

By Paul Hastings Professional

On March 22, 2020, the French Parliament enacted the Health Emergency Law aiming at dealing with the COVID-19 epidemic in France.

The Health Emergency Law empowers the French Government (hereafter “the Government”) to legislate by decree, according to Article 38 of the French Constitution, in order to quickly adapt French legislation to the exceptional circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 epidemic.

I. Impacts on Employment Law

The Health Emergency Law empowers the Government to:

  • Facilitate the use of short-time working in order to avoid dismissals based on economic grounds;

  • Authorize the conclusion of company or branch collective agreements in order to impose or modify the period during which part paid leave must be taken, within the limit of six (6) business days, thus derogating from usual periods of notice;

  • Allow any employer to unilaterally impose or modify the scheduled dates with regards to the reduced working time legislation, as well as other days off provided under any applicable flat rate or rest days collective agreements allocated on the employee’s working time account;

  • Allow companies operating in key sectors for both the security of the nation and the continuity of economic and social life to contravene public policy rules and conventional stipulations on working hours, weekly rest, and Sunday rest;

  • Make any change, on an exceptional basis, in (i) the expiry dates and the payment terms applicable to any amount paid under voluntary and mandatory profit-sharing schemes, and (ii) the expiry date and the payment terms applicable to the exceptional purchasing power bonus; and

  • Make any change in the arrangements in informing and consulting employee representative bodies in order for the latter to provide their required notice within the relevant timeframe and to suspend any ongoing electoral processes of employee representatives’ bodies.

II. Impacts on Contractual Relationships

The Government is empowered to modify the payment and penalties terms, as well as the nature of compensations, in the context of any contractual relationships between (i) any private legal entity exercising an economic activity towards any customer or supplier or (ii) any cooperative towards its cooperative partners.

III. Impacts on Judicial Proceedings

The Health Emergency Law empowers the Government to:

  • Adapt the terms and proceedings applicable to (i) any filing and processing of any form submitted to any administrative authorities, (ii) public consultation or consultation of any competent authority, and (iii) the performance of controls, works, or prescriptions by any individual which do not result from a court decision;

  • Adapt the rules applicable to (i) the territorial competence and the formations of the Court within administrative and judicial jurisdictions and (ii) the terms applicable to proceedings and judgments, particularly any rules applicable to the publicity and the holding of hearings, by allowing the use of videoconference;

  • Adapt the rules applicable to the conduct of custodies, pre-trial detentions, and electronically monitored house arrests; and

  • Adapt the rules applicable to (i) the execution and the enforcement of custodial sentences and (ii) the execution of placement measures and other educational measures.

IV. Impacts on Corporate Law

The Health Emergency Law empowers the Government to:

  • Adapt the rules governing the holding and the deliberation procedures of the private legal entities’ executive collegial bodies and general meetings through simplification;

  • Adapt the rules applicable to the approval and publication of the annual accounts and the rules applicable to any filing and any other document private legal entities are required to disclose; and

  • Adapt the rules applicable to the allocation of any profits and the payment of any dividends.

V. Impacts on Financing

The Government is empowered to strengthen the Public Investment Bank’s capacity to grant guarantees.