Digital HR in France: Focus on electronic signature and digitising HR documents

Written on 14 Nov 2019

HR is not an exception when it comes to the digital transformation. All companies rely on some form of technology for managing their HR documents; paperless HR will become soon inevitable in our digital age.

This overview is for companies anywhere in the process of digital maintaining or transforming their HR functions.

1. Under what conditions is an electronic signature legally equivalent to a wet ink signature?

According to the current legislation, only “qualified electronic signatures” are automatically equivalent to a wet ink signature, provided that the person from whom it originates can be duly identified (i) and that it is drafted and stored in such conditions as to guarantee its integrity (ii). A qualified electronic signature is a signature that is created by qualified software and that is based on a qualified certificate.

A “Trust List” has been established at national and EU levels, for each EU country to identify the trust services of qualified electronic signatures. At present, France recognises several companies as providers of qualified electronic signatures, such as Click and Trust, DocuSign France, La Poste Group, Yousign etc. Following EU law, a qualified electronic signatures created by a trust service provider recognised in another EU member state for the provision of qualified electronic signatures, shall also be considered as a valid qualified electronic signature in France.

2. Which documents require a qualified electronic signature?

It is recommended to opt for a qualified electronic signature for all documents that provide for contractual obligations towards the employee (employment contract, addendum, variable remuneration plan, termination letter, etc.).

3. Can an employer oblige an employee to sign a document electronically?

No, neither the employer not the employee can be obliged to electronically sign document, including employment contracts, hence both parties would need to agree to sign electronically a document.

4. What are my legal obligations as an employer for electronic archiving?

As regards HR documents, they can be stored electronically up until the expiry of a period of five years after the end of the employment contract. Employers must also take measures to protect archived data (against damage, loss, etc.), guarantee a limited access to them and enable employees to access their archived data. In addition, as the Labour Inspector has a right to access such documents, employers should ensure an easy and quick access to the stored documents.

5. Electronic HR documents?

A number of HR documents can be sent and stored electronically only (without hard copies), such as the payslips, employment certificate and individual meeting reports. As regards payslips, employees have a right to request a hard copy. With regard to the electronic transmission of those documents, this can only be done if the employer guarantees the integrity, accessibility and confidentiality of the data stored.

6. Can I send a registered letter electronically?

Yes, an electronic registered letter sent via a qualified trust service has the same legal value as a traditional registered letter, provided that the service provider in charge of the delivery guarantees the identity of the sender and recipient (i), the delivery and receipt dates (ii) and, if the recipient is not a professional, his/her preliminary approval has been provided. The use of electronic letter is not very common in France yet but it may be useful for the employer in the event that the competent person to sign a document and represent the company is located abroad. At present, France recognises the following services as qualified electronic registered mail services: AR24, Clearbus, Darva, Equisign, La Poste Group, Tessi Documents Services.

7. Works Council consultation?

The Social and Economic Committee must be informed and consulted before any major new technology introduction project, including HR digital transformation.

Our recommendations

In the tables below, we make recommendations regarding whether to sign various HR-documents with a qualified or a non-qualified signature (1) and the possibility to send electronically various HR-documents or not (2). These lists are not exhaustive. Our recommendations take into account the opportunity and the legal consequences of the two options. Please note that checking the provisions of the applicable CBA is always required.

Electronic signature of various HR documents

Type of document  Qualified e-Signature Non-qualified e-Signature
Fixed term employment contract
Permanent employment contract
Amendments of the employment contracts
Non-compete clause
Letter to extend the trial period
Termination letter
Holiday request
Acknowledgement of receipt of company policies or the work regulations
Evaluation forms

Electronic sending of various HR documents

Type of document Electronic notification Non-electronic notification
Job offer
Electronic employment contracts (and amendments)
Letter to extend the trial period
Dismissal letter
Employee’s resignation

Conclusion

Digital HR is not just an inevitable part of the future of doing business, it is also a strategic tool in the present for attracting candidates. More and more qualified tools and platforms are emerging for employers to streamline their operations and make information more accessible to employer and employee alike. We are here to advise on all your legal questions about digital HR and how to make it work best for your business.