The national protocol for the health and safety of workers has been updated by the French Government and notably reinforces the necessity for employers to organize telecommuting for all positions and task that enable it, by making mandatory the elaboration of a related action plan.
The necessity of telecommuting reinforced as a key measure against Covid-19
The national protocol summarizes and specifies the general principles of prevention in terms of protection of health and safety at work, adapted to the current context and to be observed by the employers.
In accordance with these general principles, the pursuit of activity in companies therefore involves, in order of priority:
- To implement preventive measures aimed at eliminating risks at source,
- To minimize exposures that cannot be eliminated,
- To privilege collective protection measures,
- To implement employee protection measures, according to the current recommendations and dependent on the activity*.
The most recent update of the national protocol for health and safety of workers has placed telecommuting as the main measure made necessary to comply with the above-mentioned principles, in the context of Covid-19. It indeed appears to be one of the most obvious and effective way to
limit social interactions at work and when travelling between home and work.
For this reason, all companies are therefore requested to manage and monitor all telecommuting tasks and positions, when possible, notably by using remote working tools. The national protocol for the health and safety of workers moreover indicates it is mandatory for employers to make an action plan organizing telecommuting whenever possible and specifying preventive and protective measures in other cases.
*In order to help employers to determine which measures are statutory or recommended, including depending on their activity, the French Government provides for useful documentation in French on this internet website: https://travail-emploi.gouv.fr/le-ministere-en-action/coronavirus-covid-19/protection-des-travailleurs/article/fiches-conseils-metiers-et-guides-pratiques-pour-les-salaries-et-les-employeurs
The obligation to make an action plan about telecommuting
Since April 2021, companies have to set up an action plan to limit as much as possible employees physically working from office premises, considering however the possibility for employees telecommuting at 100% to request working maximum one day a week on the company premises, when they express such need and with their employer’s agreement. The French government indeed provided for this possibility which should be organized as well in the action plan.
More generally, this plan must adapt the work organization in order to limit the social interactions at work. It systematically organizes a rotation of the employees’ departure and arrival times in order to limit crowds during peak hours. As the case may be, it also extends this organization to suppliers and service providers physically visiting the company workplace(s).
This plan does not have to comply to any specific formalism. It must be discussed with employees’ representatives, as the case may be. Compliance with these obligations is subject to a control by the Labour Inspection, and employers must be able to demonstrate compliance with all the rules of hygiene and physical distancing made necessary by the epidemic.
Please note that the French Government decided on this occasion to strengthen the Labour Inspection’s controls regarding the implementation of telecommuting in companies whose activity permits it. Those companies should therefore be able to present an action plan as well as the reality of the actions implemented according to this plan in case of control. They can also be requested to communicate supportive documents declaring the actual rate of presence in the workplace.
Such controls are justified from a legal perspective by the general obligation of employers to assess risks and to determine in consequence the most appropriate measures to prevent the realization of these risks. It is in this context, adapted and strengthened by the current health situation, that the Labour inspection can put employers on notice to comply to the general principles of prevention and in the most serious cases, when there is a serious risk of harm to the physical integrity of the employees, can apply to the judicial court ruling in summary proceedings to order all necessary measures to put an end to the identified risk(s).
Should you have any questions, or should you need assistance in this matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.