15.03.2020Myriam de Gaudusson, Patrick Thiébart

Alert Coronavirus n°1 – What French employers should know

The Covid 19 spread is causing a great deal of concern amongst employers and employees. This paper aims to recap the main safety and support measures that employers can adopt in the interest of their employees and in the interest of their business in this challenging and stressful time.

Measures companies doing business in France should have in mind


Nowadays, public places represent a danger in terms of spreading risks of Covid19. That is why employers may wish to consider the following measures:

  • ensuring a deep cleaning of employees’ offices with particular emphasis on premises receiving the public;
  • Promoting the simple and effective measures that public health authorities have identified to reduce risks of transmission: wash hands frequently; sneeze or cough in a tissue or sleeve; and clean shared items;
  • providing employees with the appropriate equipment for frequent hand-cleaning;
  • giving priority to client and other meetings by audio or video conferencing;
  • restricting business travels whenever possible in particular those in high-risk areas and outside of the EU
  • accomodating the workplace with a minimum distance of one meter between workstations;
  • encouraging employees routinely work remotely whenever possible;
  • having a business continuity plan in case several one or several employees are infected;
  • in concertation with the employees’ reps., updating the workplace risk assessment document on the basis of the measures taken by the company against the coronavirus and notifying the employees accordingly.
If despite these measures, employees still feel endangered in the workplace, are they allowed to stay away from work? 

Employees are entitled to leave on their own the workplace without incurring disciplinary sanctions or suffering any salary deduction if they have reasonable grounds to believe that there is a serious and imminent danger for their life or health. In this case, employees are entitled to ask the employees’ reps. to get involved to preserve their health and safety.

However, if the measures recommended by the French Government are properly implemented in the workplace (see), employees are not be allowed to leave the workplace on their own. As the current trend is to promote teleworking, employees will probably have less opportunities to assert their right to quit their jobs due to a serious and imminent danger for their life or health.

What are the rights of employees who are quarantined or put under medical surveillance?

If the employee’s role is suitable, he/she can work from home even though there is no specific teleworking agreement in the company.

Otherwise, the employer may refer the employee to the occupational physician to place him/her on “special coronavirus leave” by a doctor from the Regional Health Agency (“ARS”). This gives the employee the right for compensation by the Social Security, without any waiting period, up to 50% of the employee’s basic daily wage calculated on the average monthly gross remuneration paid over the past 3 months, for a maximum period of 20 days. The partner of the employee affected by the Covid19 who is placed in quarantine can also benefit from the “special coronavirus leave” to stay by his/her side.

What happens for employees who need to care for children due to school closure?

An employee with a child under 16 years of age may work from home, if the role is suitable. Otherwise, the employer may use a simplified procedure to apply for a work suspension on a dedicated website dedicated website.

This gives the employee the right to get Social Security allowances, without any waiting period and for the duration of the school closure. Only one of the two parents is eligible for work suspension. Employees who have opted for individual childcare (e.g. home childcare) cannot benefit from this “special coronavirus” work suspension.

Teleworking in the challenging time of Covid19

Generally speaking, teleworking can be implemented through:

  • a company-wide agreement;
  • a unilateral chart issued by the employer after a consultation of the Social and economic committee;
  • an individual agreement entered into between the employer and the employee.

In the context of the coronavirus spread, telework may be regarded as an adaptation of the employee’s work conditions that is necessary to ensure the continuity of the company’s activity and to guarantee the employees’ health.

Accordingly, employers are allowed to require employees to work from home without asking their prior approval until the end of the exceptional circumstances caused by the spread of the coronavirus.

In the same vein, it is highly recommended not to oppose employees’ request to switch to  telework. That said, the employer:

  • will need to get an electrical compliance certificate from the employee showing that the electrical installations of his/her domicile comply with the law;
  • will bear the costs incurred professional costs incurred by teleworking and

will provide the employee with the necessary equipment for the proper performance of his/her employment contract.

Postponement of employers’ contributions

Companies may ask to postpone without justification and without formality the payment of contributions and taxes due in March. To this end, they must file an application

  • with the DGFIP agency through a special form to be filled-in;
  • with the URSSAF agency, under the section “declaring an exceptional situation” of the professional online space on the website.

Facilitating short-time working

A large number of small businesses have requested permission to temporarily cut their workforces without breaking employment contracts. The French government has then decided to help them adopt short-time working for workers whose hours are cut.

To get the benefit of the short work time scheme, the company may file an application on line on the French labour administration’s website. The short time work aid is granted in 48 hours vs.15 days habitually.

Practically speaking, the company gets a flat-rate allowance of €7.74 per non-working hour (where the workforce is less than 250 employees) and €7.23 (where the workforce is more than 250 employees) up to a maximum of 1,000 hours per calendar year and per employee.

The employees will be indemnified up to 84 % of his/her net salary.

The Government is expected to issue a decree shortly to set the terms and conditions of this new scheme.