Pension reforms: what is the "grandfather clause", which divides the government?


Six months after the cacophony about the retirement age, the government is again dividing on the "clause of the grandfather" as part of the great reform underway. This clause consists in applying the new measures only to the future workers, in order to make them better accepted, in particular by the professions which benefit from special regimes. Sign of the excitement of the government approaching the strike extendable, including the SNCF and the RATP, announced from December 5.

For Jean-Paul Delevoye, the high commissioner for pensions, the use of the "clause of the grandfather" would simply be impossible. "If you (do) for a profession, you have to do it for everyone, equity issue, it means that we give up the reform," he said Wednesday in the Parisian.

An output that had already earned a first general reframing of Emmanuel Macron cabinet ministers on Wednesday. "I ask you not to explain right now what would be a good or a bad reform, apart from what the president and the Prime Minister say," had seized the head of state. On Friday, the Prime Minister spoke with the High Commissioner over the phone. A message well received by Jean-Paul Delevoye, who told AFP that he "will rank behind the decision of the President, the Prime Minister and Parliament."

An American origin, in full segregation

But what is this "grandfather's clause"? In law it is translated by the clause of anteriority also called "acquired rights". It allows to exempt from a new regime people who have already acquired rights before the vote of the law.

A clause that actually finds its origins in the United States. It aimed to exclude blacks, recently enfranchised, from the voting rights at the end of the 19th century, in seven southern states of the United States. To be able to vote, one had to be able to read and write, or to have a minimal surface of ground. But those who had, or whose ancestors already had the right to vote before the beginning of the American Civil War, could be excluded from these restrictions. Which could not be the case of a Black person. This clause will be declared unconstitutional in 1915.

By extension, the legal clauses instituting a double application of the law according to a statute prior to its promulgation are now known as the grandfather clause. In France, it has already happened that it is used. This was the case in 2018 for example, at the time of the reform of the SNCF, or for the privatization of public companies like France Telecom.

Save special diets

If it comes back on the carpet today, it is to save special diets, including the SNCF and the RATP, where a massive strike is looming. It is Emmanuel Macron himself who evoked the idea. "I quite understand someone who is at EDF, the RATP or the SNCF, who is 48 or 50 years old, and who protests," he acknowledged late October. "He returned with a pact with the nation, we told him: You will work in this company, here are your rights. Without doubt we must not shake everything for him.

Yet this is not the miracle solution. As Jean-Paul Delevoye pointed out, if the clause is only applied to special regimes, it would create an imbalance, an inequity. If it applies to all, it would mean the application of the reform for decades.

Meanwhile, in the ranks of the majority, the goal is primarily to display a unit of position. And to "hold Delevoye until December 5", blows a parliamentarian.


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