Considerations when Sending Faculty or Students Abroad — a United States Perspective

Bruce R. Alper of Vedder Price P.C. and James Erwin of Pierce Atwood LLP discuss considerations for colleges and universities when sending faculty or students abroad, offering a United States perspective.

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The Accidental Contract

By:  Sarah L. Ford
Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP
Raleigh, North Carolina

The faculty appointment letter is a time-honored tradition in academia.  Issued to new and returning faculty alike, these letters assure your teaching and researching employees of their place and role in the upcoming school year.  Over the years, though, the appointment letter has crept like kudzu through the Human Resources office of many colleges and universities.  We now see it popping up in the mailboxes of assistant librarians, development officers, and recruiters, as well as professors.

To understand why this is a problem, let’s briefly address why the migration occurred.  One simple explanation is that the appointment letter process thoughtlessly was transferred from faculty to non-faculty hires without regard to the implications.  The more significant explanation is that some administrators conjectured that by putting an end-of-the-school-year “expiration date” on all university employment, they would have more flexibility to discharge weak employees.  The theory was that if you didn’t “reappoint” your university catering manager, for example, you weren’t firing him or her, but simply choosing not to renew an expired contract.  Unfortunately for the institutions who have taken this path, it does not provide the protection they are seeking.  Failure to renew an appointment typically is categorized by the EEOC and other civil rights agencies as an adverse employment action equivalent to a traditional termination.  Conclusion:  The appointment letter isn’t much use as a shield.

Worse, an appointment letter can be used by an employee as a sword if he or she is let go prior to the end of the spring term.  A disgruntled former employee can argue that he or she was appointed for the year and therefore is not subject to discharge on an at-will basis.  In this way, a university can find that it inadvertently has entered dozens and dozens of employment contracts and significantly has limited its own freedom to hire and fire as best serves the needs of the insitution.  If you are on this hamster wheel, there are ways to dismount, but also a risk of confusion and upset when employees do not receive the annual appoinment letter to which they have become accustomed.  Talking to an employment attorney about the best way to transition from an appointment letter culture to an indefinite but at-will employment culture is the first best step to ending a cycle of accidental contracts.

La Formation des Salariés au Cœur des Enjeux de Compétitivité et D’employabilité

2013 aura été l’année de la flexi-sécurité à la française, mêlant davantage de flexibilité pour les employeurs en contrepartie de leur responsabilité accrue en terme d’employabilité des travailleurs sur le marché du travail.

La loi du 14 juin 2013 dite de « sécurisation de l’emploi » modifie en profondeur notre modèle social, notamment en ce qu’elle réduit le périmètre d’intervention du régime du licenciement économique et des procédures (lourdes) afférentes. Cette réduction s’opère au profit d’une extension de celui des mesures de Gestion Prévisionnelle des Emplois et des Compétences (GPEC).

La GPEC vise à réduire les écarts entre ressources internes et les besoins en compétences de l’entreprise, notamment au travers de politiques de mobilité professionnelle et géographique. La mobilité fonctionnelle implique donc la formation professionnelle, qui apparaît plus que jamais située au cœur de la relation de travail. Elle devient également un outil de levier incontournable dans l’employabilité de chaque salarié.

La loi de sécurisation de l’emploi développe des dispositifs qui constituent autant de mesures alternatives au licenciement économique, qui seront complétés par une réforme du système de la formation professionnelle à venir début 2014.

A cette occasion, il nous a semblé opportun d’exposer brièvement le système de la formation professionnelle en France, à savoir l’obligation de formation des salariés qui repose sur l’employeur. Par ailleurs et dans le cadre de leur responsabilité sociale, les entreprises sont de plus en plus incitées à contribuer à la politique d’insertion des chômeurs et des jeunes entrant sur le marché du travail.

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Le système de la formation professionnelle repose sur trois piliers :

–       un outil de RH et de RSE utilisé afin de rechercher un équilibre permanent entre les objectifs de compétitivité des entreprises et la responsabilité de l’employeur s’agissant de l’employabilité des salariés ;

–       une obligation de financement et de formation incombant aux entreprises employant des salariés en France ;

–       une gestion paritaire des fonds de la formation professionnelle qui place les branches professionnelles au cœur des politiques de la formation.

« Former ou payer » qui devient « former de toute façon »

Le droit français de la formation professionnelle est régi par un adage : « former ou payer ». Le système de la formation professionnelle français est conçu de telle sorte que l’entreprise a l’obligation de contribuer financièrement à la formation de ses salariés.

Le montant de la participation de l’employeur au financement de la formation professionnelle est égal à un pourcentage de la masse salariale de l’entreprise, qui diffère selon son effectif:

– 0,55% pour les entreprises jusqu’à 9 salariés;

– 1,05% pour les entreprises de 10 à 19 salariés;

– 1,6% pour les entreprises de 20 salariés et plus.

Depuis la fin des années 1990, l’obligation de formation s’est “autonomisée” de l’obligation de paiement pour devenir une véritable obligation de l’employeur  de former chacun de ses salariés. Le droit à la formation professionnelle est un droit individuel du salarié, comme le rappelle régulièrement la chambre sociale de la Cour de cassation, notamment dans un arrêt récent en date du 5 juin 2013.

Les acteurs

Afin de mener leurs politiques de formation, les entreprises doivent coordonner leurs actions avec la branche à laquelle elles appartiennent, ainsi qu’avec les pouvoirs publics. La matière nécessite donc une bonne compréhension des enjeux de pouvoirs (jeux d’acteur) et l’identification du bon interlocuteur.

La formation, outil de compétitivité des entreprises et d’employabilité

Ainsi, la formation professionnelle implique des entreprises une bonne maîtrise du système, face à la consécration d’une véritable obligation de formation de leurs salariés, indépendamment même de leur obligation de contribution financière, et ce, dans un contexte économique et social de plus en plus difficile. Dans le même temps, la maîtrise de sa politique de formation par l’entreprise est déterminante de sa capacité à mettre en place des mesures alternatives au licenciement économique, alors que l’acceptabilité par le corps social des licenciements de masse est de plus en plus contestée.

Les entreprises sont amenées à consacrer de plus en plus de ressources à la formation professionnelle, qu’elles soient humaines ou financières, expliquant la création d’un Pôle de la Formation Professionnelle au sein du cabinet Fromont Briens, dans la mesure où la compétitivité des entreprises et leur responsabilité en termes d’employabilité des salariés passe plus que jamais par la formation professionnelle.

Vocational Training at the Heart of Companies’ Challenges in Terms of Competitiveness and Employability

By: Sophie Pelicier Loevenbruck
Fromont Briens

2013 was the year of flexi-curity à la française, combining greater flexibility for employers in return for their increased responsibility in terms of employability of the workers in the labour market.

The June 14th, 2013 statute on employment securing significantly modifies our social model, especially in the sense that it reduces the scope of intervention of the regime of redundancy on economic grounds and related (cumbersome) procedures. Such a reduction was done in favour of an extension of the measures of jobs and skills management (“Gestion Prévisionnelle des Emplois et des Compétences”, also known as “GPEC”).

GPEC aims at reducing the gap between internal resources and the company’s needs, through occupational and geographical mobility measures. Therefore, occupational mobility is closely linked to vocational training, which appears to be more than ever at the heart of the employment relationship. It has also become a tool to leverage the employability of every single employee.

The statute on employment securing develops tools that constitute alternatives to redundancy that will be complemented by a reform of vocational training to come early 2014.

On this occasion, it appears interesting to briefly outline the system of vocational training in France, namely the employer’s obligation to train the workers that have already entered the labour market. Moreover, and as a part of their social responsibility, companies have been increasingly encouraged to participate to the integration of unemployed and young workers to the labour market.

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The current French vocational training system is based on three pillars:

–       a HR and Corporate Social Responsibility tool used to balance the companies’ competitiveness objectives and the employer’s goal of ensuring the employee’s employability ;

–       a training and financing obligation due by national and foreign companies based on a contribution of fiscal nature ;

–       a joint management (“gestion paritaire”) of vocational training funds, which places employers and trade unions from both the professional branches and interprofessional levels at the heart of training policies.

« Train or pay » that has become « train anyway »

The French vocational training law is governed by the following saying: “train or pay”. The vocational training system is designed so that the company has an obligation to contribute financially to the worker’s vocational training.

The amount of the employer’s participation in the financing of vocational training is equal to a percentage of the payroll of the company, which varies with the size of its workforce:

– 0.55% for companies with up to 9 employees;

– 1.05% for companies with 10 to 19 employees;

– 1.6% for companies with 20 employees and more.

Since the late 1990s, the training requirement has clearly separated from the obligation to pay to become a real obligation of the employer to train each of his employees. The right to vocational training is an individual right for the employee, as is regularly pointed out by the social chamber of the French Supreme Court (“Cour de cassation”), most recently in its judgment dated June 5th, 2013.

Actors

To carry out their vocational training policies, companies need to coordinate their actions with the activity branch to which they belong, as well as with the State. The matter thus requires a good understanding of the power issues as well as in terms of identifying the right interlocutor.

Vocational training, a tool for business competitiveness and employability

Vocational training in France therefore requires the companies to have a solid knowledge of the system, as they were faced with the consecration of a real obligation to train their employees, clearly distinct from their mandatory financial contribution, in a more and more difficult economic and social context. At the same time, the company’s control of its training policy is critical to its ability to develop alternatives to redundancy based on economic grounds, at a time where the acceptability of collective redundancies is being increasingly challenged by the society.

Today, companies are known to devote more and more resources to training, whether human or financial, explaining the creation of a Vocational Training Department here at Fromont Briens, insofar as the competitiveness of enterprises and the workers’ employability are more than ever linked to the workers’ training, which is now placed at the heart of the companies’ strategic challenges.