Maître Florence Froment-Meurice Lawyer

Employers must protect mental health just as they safeguard physical safety

The performance obligation

Employers know the safety – and performance – obligation well. It requires them to safeguard the physical health and safety of their employees.

The array of directives, European framework agreements, collective national agreements, reports, laws and case‑law since the early 2000s have led to major legal developments in the field of risk management, quality of life at work and improvements in change management initiatives.

…collective measures, management practices that have a direct effect on an individual situation.

These developments have expanded the scope of the general obligation to protect employees’ health, which now includes their mental health. Employers become responsible when this performance obligation is not met. It is very difficult for employers to disclaim this obligation.

Particularly where a workplace accident or occupational illness arises from “work itself”, rather than the workplace.

Particularly where there is a finding of gross negligence (which can lead to annuity increases), when the employer was or should have been aware of the risk but did not take the necessary corrective measures that would have enabled them to conduct an RPS diagnosis and improve quality of life at work.

IMG_1916Meanwhile, the court of cassation has clarified the definition of psychological bullying, which it understands as “repeated acts having the aim or effect of infringing the rights or dignity of the employee, of altering their physical or mental health or damaging their future”.

It expands the sentencing options: bullying or harassment can exist without multiple acts or malice, without the originator being identified and even where the employer has implemented corrective measures, HR mediation and risk management.

Bullying or harassment may therefore originate from collective measures – management methods – that have a direct effect on an individual situation.