It is a device designed as an alternative to resignation or dismissal: the conventional termination, which allows employees and employers in particular to end a permanent contract without needing to justify a particular reason, has never seemed so popular. According to figures from the Department of Research, Studies and Statistics (Dares) of the Ministry of Labour, published last August, 454,000 individual contractual terminations were thus approved in the private sector in France in 2021 – a record figure, which corresponds to an increase of 6.1% over one year, after a decline of 3.6% in 2020 due to the health crisis.

Created by the labor market modernization law of June 25, 2008, this conventional termination opens, unlike resignation, the right to unemployment benefits for the employee, in addition to a severance indemnity equal to or greater than the indemnity legal dismissal. Since its creation, the number of these “amicable terminations” has steadily increased: nearly 246,000 were granted in 2010, 360,000 in 2015, before reaching 443,000 in 2019, just before the pandemic. of coronavirus. If the Dares wishes to underline a “modest increase in ruptures” compared to 2019 (2.3%) which “confirms the slowdown observed in the years preceding the pandemic”, the organization notes that this increase has nevertheless continued since the beginning. of the year 2022. The number of conventional ruptures approved thus increased by 3.3% in the first quarter of this year compared to the last quarter of 2021, reaching 42,300 approvals for the month of March 2022 alone – one of the figures the highest ever recorded.

“This is explained first of all by a catch-up effect due to the Covid parenthesis and successive confinements”, relates Camille Signoretto, lecturer in economics at Paris Cité University. For this specialist in the economic analysis of the rules of labor law, this regular increase is also explained by a better knowledge of this system by companies and employees. “It’s become commonplace: the HR departments are well-honed, as are the employees. Employees who could have resigned before will have a greater tendency to go through a contractual termination.” But the economist does not reject the hypothesis of a real weariness of employees for their jobs. “There is a certain correlation between unfavorable working conditions and the desire of disgruntled employees to leave their profession.”

After an almost generalized decline in 2020, Dares specifies that contractual terminations are increasing markedly in certain socio-professional categories in 2021, such as construction (16%), transport and storage (13.8%), or even the non-food sector. commercial, such as public administration, education, human health and social action (12.1%). “So many sectors for which employees are demanding better working conditions and better remuneration, and which pose, above all, the question of meaning at work”, notes Coralie Perez, socio-economist at the University of Paris I and co-author of Giving back meaning at work (Seuil, 2022). “These are sectors which are experiencing recruitment difficulties and for which there is a problem of attractiveness, to the point that they are already strongly affected by the resignations of employees”, she analyzes. For the specialist, this phenomenon is not only related to the health crisis. “Between 2013 and 2016, the probability of voluntarily leaving their job was significantly increased for employees losing meaning at work. The pandemic and the awareness it has generated, in particular regarding the sustainability of our working methods, only hastened the process.”

Coralie Perez thus draws a parallel with the phenomenon of “great resignation”, observed in the United States since the pandemic and, to a lesser extent, in France. Last August, another Dares study indicated that between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, the number of resignations reached a “historically high” level, with nearly 520,000 resignations per quarter – including 470,000 concerning permanent contracts. Figures which remain “to put into perspective” according to the organization, which qualifies this increase as “normal”, in connection with the recovery “following the Covid-19 crisis”. “The resignation rate is a cyclical indicator. It is low during crises and rises in times of recovery, all the more strongly as the economic upturn is rapid. During phases of economic expansion, new opportunities for employment appear, encouraging people to resign more often”, it is specified. “We talk a lot about a big resignation, but we could actually talk about a big change. In France, people leave their jobs to find something better,” explains Eric Gras, labor market specialist at Indeed. “Since the Covid, employees no longer put their desires and their needs under glass, especially if they work in a sector with high demand, where wages are low and constraints are strong. If they have the choice, they leave. “

The Dares study specifies that the number of conventional terminations is on the rise again among employees (7.7%), but also among workers (7.6%) and technicians (5.7%). “This may suggest that behind the current dynamism of the labor market, employees may have stronger bargaining power than before in certain sectors. They manage to better negotiate their departure, as well as their new working conditions or their salary”, decrypts Camille Signoretto. Among executives, where the number of contractual terminations continues to increase – but at a slower pace (1.6% in 2021, after an increase of 2.3% in 2020 and 10% in 2019) – termination benefits are however more advantageous. While 57% of them have compensation at least 5% higher than the legal compensation, this is the case for 19% of employees, and only 17% of manual workers. Their median compensation thus amounts to 5,280 euros for a manager, against 1,000 euros for an employee.

According to Dares, this craze for the conventional break in 2021 also affects all age groups. “The received idea that young people absolutely want to keep their CDI is false. In reality, they are the ones who will have the greatest mobility in the world of work”, explains Camille Signoretto. After falling in 2020, the number of contractual terminations is on the rise again among those under 30 (6.4%), but also among those aged 30-39 (8.1%). “However, young people do not find less meaning in their work than their elders: the image of a generation Z who would no longer wish to work or commit to a long-term permanent contract is also biased”, adds Coralie Perez. The number of conventional terminations is thus increasing among 40-49 year olds (5.2%), and accelerating among those over 50 (4.1%, compared to 3.2% in 2020). “It’s not a question of generation, but a question of time. Employees of all ages have understood that they can demand more balance between their professional and personal life: if they have the choice, they will work more under duress”, abounds Eric Gras.

“During the Covid period, many employees developed their own entrepreneurial projects, thought about more personal commitments, about the meaning they wanted to give to their work. These are the same people who now come to ask for a conventional break” , illustrates Laurence Breton-Kueny, vice-president of the National Association of Human Resources Directors (ANDRH). But the specialist admits it: the conventional break can also be interesting for the employer. “There is first a question of cost: dismissal requires notice to be paid, to be carried out, which is added to the legal severance pay. With conventional termination, you have no notice. ” In cases where the employee has shown his demotivation or his personal disengagement for a long time, this mode of termination will also be preferred. “Better that than sick leaves that add up. When you feel that the person is no longer there, that the employee and the employer are tired of each other, it is better to opt for a conventional break. ” According to Coralie Perez, employers want to avoid any obstacle to the total commitment of the employee to work. “They understood that the balance of power had been reversed: evidenced by the number of voluntary resignations, but also the requests for teleworking or quiet quitting situations, for example.”

Camille Signoretto recalls for his part that companies will also have the advantage “of not giving specific reasons” during a contractual termination, unlike a traditional dismissal. “And above all, since both parties must agree on the details of the contract, the employer reduces the risk of attacks on the labor courts.” The conventional termination must nevertheless be submitted to the administration for approval via, since April 1, 2022, a specific platform. According to Dares, only 1% of requests would be refused. In addition, if the law does not provide for any limit in number per company, the administration can however refuse approval if it judges that these contractual ruptures are too numerous and are similar to redundancies.

Note that the procedure is also open for protected employees (elected CSE or union delegates for example), who will have to obtain the express authorization of the labor inspectorate, and not a simple approval. “It’s governed by very strict controls, we can’t do anything,” insists Laurence Breton-Kueny. But the HRD warns: not all requests for contractual terminations are accepted with a snap of the fingers. “It must be at least justified: if there is no mutual benefit to this break, we do not accept it.”