Covid-19 epidemic: what measures should be implemented by Companies to protect their employees?
The French Government has instructed that all employers must make all efforts to have employees work remotely during the confinement period. It being specified that when remote working is not possible, strict recommendations should be applied in order to protect the health of the employees and their families.
Setting up telecommuting
Telecommuting refers to any form of work organization in which work which would normally be performed on the employer’s premises is carried out by an employee outside these premises, using information and communication technologies.
Telecommuting is the best option to protect the health and safety of the employees from the current epidemic.
French legislation provides that telecommuting is only possible with the agreement of the employee(s). There is however a derogatory legislation allowing an employer to impose telecommuting to his/her employees, without receiving their prior agreement. This derogation only applies in case of exceptional circumstances or ‘force majeure’ and is therefore applicable to the current situation related to the virus.
The implementation of telecommuting under this derogatory regime requires no specific formalism. It is considered as an rearrangement of the working conditions , made necessary to allow the continuity of the activity of the company and to guarantee the protection of the employees.
When telecommuting is not possible
Employers’ general obligation is to protect their employees’ health and safety at work through the implementation of specific measures. In the current context of pandemic, one of the most effective measures that an employer may take, i.e. telecommuting, is not always a possibility.
Any employer who can’t organize telecommuting for his/her employees must ensure the compliance to the information and prevention measures recommended by the Government.
There is a general obligation for all employers to perform a written assessment of the professional risks related to its activity and to employees’ positions. In companies where this assessment has been performed it must be updated in order to take into account the new epidemic-related risks. In other companies, a risk assessment must be performed urgently to establish the epidemic-related risks and protective measures to be taken.
The objective is to minimize the risk of contagion in the workplace or at work through measures such as actions of prevention, information and training as well as the implementation of suitable means, in accordance with the instructions of the French public authorities.
More specifically, it is requested to employers to take the appropriate measures to reduce as much as possible the physical contacts/proximity between the employees and clients if applicable. Thus, the assessment must be conducted taking into account the methods of contamination and the concept of close contact.
The French Government has identified two situations involving two different levels of measures:
- When contacts are brief, the following “barrier” measures help to preserve the health of the employees:
- “Wash your hands very regularly
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or into a tissue
- Greet without shaking hands, avoid kissing
- Use and dispose of single-use tissues
- Avoid gatherings, limit travels and contacts”
- When the contacts are prolonged and close, it is necessary to complete the “barrier” measures, for example by installing a courtesy zone of one meter between the employees, by cleaning surfaces with a suitable product, as well as by frequent hand washing.
Limited travel for employees: a professional attestation is required
Since the decision of the French Government to take stronger measures against the epidemic spreading, on March 17th, 2020, the population is now in a limited form ofcontainment and any travel must be justified.
A statement for professional travel (“Justificatif de déplacement professionnel” in French) is available on the following governmental website: https://mobile.interieur.gouv.fr/Actualites/L-actu-du-Ministere/Attestation-de-deplacement-derogatoire-et-justificatif-de-deplacement-professionnel
This statement must be completed by the employer (or his/her representative) and remitted to each employee concerned by the following situations: travel between home and place(s) of work, when this is essential for the activities which cannot be organized in the form of telecommuting, or business travel that cannot be deferred.
Should you have any questions, or need assistance, please contact our Employee Relations team (firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com)