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France Edges Closer to Ratifying Workplace Violence Treaty

National Assembly Passes Law to Ratify ILO Violence and Harassment Convention

Protestors marching to demand the end of femicide and violence against women in Paris, France, November 23, 2019.  © 2019 Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Update: On October 28, the Senate adopted the bill to ratify the ILO violence and harassment Convention (C190).

(Paris, July 23) “The world of work must not be a source of anxiety or insecurity for women.” ”France now intends to be a model in the implementation of [the] Convention, by ratifying it as soon as possible.”

France’s Minister of Labor, Elisabeth Borne, made this promise at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris on July 2. Today, the National Assembly adopted the bill to ratify the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention (C190), which sets out global standards for preventing and responding to violence and harassment at work.

This is a positive step, but France should therefore not be content merely to ratify the treaty. To put an end to sexual harassment at work, it needs now to effectively implement the Convention. France should adopt reforms in accordance with the Convention and accompanying recommendation, guided by emerging best practices from other countries.

While Minister Borne praised the strength of French law to combat the “scourge” of harassment and gender-based violence, significant gaps remain. During the debate over ratification, numerous members of Parliament expressed the importance of strengthening French law. Feminist groups, labor unions, and other civil society groups have identified specific areas for reform, and proposed concrete solutions.

French policymakers should introduce penalties for the reported 80% of employers who do not have a violence protection plan. They should make trainings compulsory for managers and raise awareness among workers of their rights. They should also oblige French companies to take measures to prevent and respond to risks throughout their supply chains, develop specific strategies to protect those most at risk, and adopt workplace protections, such as 10 days paid leave, for domestic violence survivors to seek help and safety without fear of losing their jobs.

Fighting gender-based violence is a stated priority for President Emmanuel Macron. Along with Minister Borne and members of parliament, he should act upon the reforms that feminists and trade union leaders are calling for.

France is providing a good example by striving to be an early ratifier of the Violence and Harassment Convention. But to truly earn the right to say it is at the forefront of the fight against sexual harassment at work, it should now adopt and implement national reforms.

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