In a long overdue step, France has finally officially ratified the International Labour Organization (ILO) Violence and Harassment Convention 2019 (C190), which sets out global standards for preventing and responding to violence and harassment at work.
France played an important role in negotiating the treaty and was among the first to pledge to pursue ratification when it was adopted on June 21, 2019. Yet it took 4 years for the French government to ratify the convention, despite persistent calls from trade unions and civil society groups.
On April 12, eighteen months after France’s parliament adopted the bill to ratify C190, the government formalized ratification, committing to ensure a world of work free of violence and harassment. France thus became the 27th country in the world and the 5th EU member state to do so.
But ratification can only be a first step. On July 2, 2021, France’s then-Minister of Labor Elisabeth Borne, now France’s prime minister, made a promise at the Generation Equality Forum: “France now intends to be a model in the implementation of [the] Convention, by ratifying it as soon as possible.”
To be a model, France should adopt reforms in line with the Convention and the accompanying recommendation. Feminist groups, labor unions, and other civil society groups have already identified specific areas for reform, and proposed concrete solutions. There are emerging best practices by other countries that France should be guided by too.
For instance, French policymakers should introduce penalties for 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.
When still Minister of Labor, now Prime Minister Borne had said: “The world of work must not be a source of anxiety or insecurity for women.” That can only be the case if France adopts the reforms that feminists and trade union leaders are calling for. Everyone, including women, deserves to work in safety and dignity.