At Orange, ‘vacation before breath’ inspires early adopters

Just now, at the beginning of May, Orange provided its first “breather”. Created under the 2022-2024 intergenerational agreement signed by three unions (CFDT, FO, Sud, but not CGT) effective January 1, this new system allows eligible workers a “break” of 3 to 12 months in their professional career to dedicate himself to a personal project while keeping a portion of his salary. An original initiative approved by the social partners. Approximately fifty applications were submitted, mostly projects relating to sponsorship and re-education. Most were accepted.

Break for project managers

Delfina Ponge, Orange UX Designer in Aix-en-Provence, will benefit from it from June 1st. At 37, she “needed a break” to “reorient” after moving around a lot – geographically and functionally (R&D engineer, HR, ergonomics) – in just 10 years at Orange. After training in cognitive and experimental psychology and ergonomics, she knew the association Valentin Haüy, which she will be involved with for a year, thanks to Orange, when she worked on smartphones and adapted voice recognition tools for visually impaired clients. This visually impaired association has created an incubator of projects dedicated to digital inclusion, which is a perfect match for the skills and experience of Delphine Ponge, who is already involved in disability and humanitarian work locally.

Respite leave is intended for employees with at least 10 years of experience in a group and one year of experience in their position, managers and non-executive persons. At the moment, this idea is more liked by the leaders. Other eligibility criteria relate to the project itself. In fact, this is not a sabbatical, not a cheap vacation. The breath applicant must be involved in an educational project (not directly related to their professional activities), in a humanitarian or social work, in a university research or teaching project, or accompanied by a start-up or small and medium business.

remuneration kept at 70%

During this holiday, his salary is kept at 70%. In the event that the activity carried out during this period of time is paid, the total amount of remuneration cannot exceed 100% of the nominal salary. Technically, it’s really a vacation. The employment contract is not suspended. Recipients of the three-month respite return to their original position at the end of the period. It will be more difficult if they leave for a year, but HRD has been supportive. As for Delphine Ponge, the first feedback from her manager is scheduled for September. The employee plans to find a position in the field of UX after 12 months of joint activity or integrate the disability mission into Orange.

“People have long careers at Orange. The idea is to let these people, who may sometimes wonder what’s next for them, take a breath and then start their careers again. Do something else, getting out of your environment can have a very positive impact. ”, explains Gervais Pellissier, Group Director of Human Resources and Transformation since mid-2020.

As the company negotiated an intergenerational agreement that includes measures targeting youth (8,000 employees under 30 on permanent contracts by 2024) and seniors (part-time jobs at the end of their careers), the goal was also to to introduce benefits for mid-level employees.

250 places to test the device

According to Gervais Pélissier, this is not about retaining employees tempted by the “Great Retirement”. “High turnover rates are greater for those with 5 to 8 years of experience in jobs that are under pressure such as cybersecurity, cloud computing and artificial intelligence, where it reaches 15-18% in some subsidiaries, while in 2018 it was 12%. In these professions, the problem for us is more in attracting young people than in retaining employees in the middle of a career.

However, “if the device is successful, I see no objection to extending it to employees with less than 10 years of service as a retention tool,” HRD said. So far, the new vacation is in an experimental phase and provides for 250 places (half of which are executives and non-executives). A very small sample for a group of 137,000 employees worldwide, including 79,000 in France. Success will depend on the number of applicants and approved projects, the quality of their reintegration, and the indicators that will be introduced to confirm that projects have been completed.

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