To cope with the 5th wave of covid-19 and to limit the risk of employee exposure to Covid-19, the French government updated the companies’ health protocol on November 29th, 2021 and December 8th, 2021. The main changes concern the strengthening of preventive measures and the wearing of masks, the rules for collective catering, ventilation of the premises and the organization of moments of conviviality.
No obligation to return to home-office working as a rule
The protocol does not provide for any modification in the field of home-office working. Companies are encouraged to develop home-office working and to define its rules with employee representatives.
On December 6th, 2021, The French prime minister urged companies to implement home-office working for at least 2 to 3 days per week, insofar as possible. But he also stressed that if companies don’t make the necessary efforts, this simple recommendation could become an obligation in the coming weeks.
Reinforcement of preventive measures and mask wearing
The wearing of a mask is mandatory within companies in all closed collective places. When many people occupy an office, it must be worn continuously.
It must be either a mask with a filtration level greater than 90% (a so-called “category 1” mask) or a surgical mask. Wearing a mask must be associated with the other hygiene and distancing measures such as, for instance:
– Washing hands regularly with water and soap or with a hydro-alcoholic solution
– No shaking hands or embracing each other
– Respecting 1m distancing between people
– Increasing distance to 2m when no mask can be worn
The implementation of a prevention policy and the management of the flow of people
The employer must inform the employee about the existence of the “TousAntiCovid” application and the benefit of activating it during working hours.
A Covid-19 referent must be appointed to ensure the implementation of the measures and the information of the employees (in small businesses, it can be the employer himself).
To manage the flow of people, the employer can define a “gauge” specifying the number of people who can be present simultaneously in the same confined space (employees, customers, service providers, suppliers, etc.) in compliance with the rules of physical distancing and wearing the mask, depending on the architecture and dimensions of the premises. This “gauge” must be displayed by the employer at the entrance to the considered space (e.g. meeting rooms). As an indication, the gauge may specify a 4m2 area per person to guarantee a distance of at least one meter around every person in all directions.
Even if this method is not mandatory, it is the employer’s duty to manage the flow of people to comply with the physical distance measures (1m between people wearing mask and 2m when no mask can be worn as mentioned above) in a confined space.
Also, videoconferencing must be the rule and the face-to-face meetings must be the exception.
Ventilation and cleaning of the premises
It is necessary to ventilate the premises with natural or functional mechanical ventilation, permanently as far as possible and at least 10 minutes every hour. The Ministry of Labor recommends using CO2 sensors to measure carbon dioxide in the air in highly visited places and/or at periods of high traffic.
To prevent contamination by hand contact, the employer must implement cleaning procedures of objects and contact points that employees are likely to touch on their workstations and in all common places, including bathrooms. These objects must be cleaned with a disinfectant active product on a regular basis, at least once a day.
For activities that require the exchange of objects between employees, a specific health protocol applies. It includes the regular cleaning of these objects, with a disinfectant active product and systematic hand washing (water and soap or hydro-alcoholic gel) before and after using the exchanged objects.
Waste likely to be contaminated, such as masks, should be disposed of in non-manual open garbage cans.
Distancing at the canteen
The sanitary protocol publishes new rules for collective catering. In canteens or company restaurants, when the mask is not worn, the distance between each person at the table must be 2 m. People should not be opposite each another. The rule of 8m2 per employee in canteens has been reinstated, as in March 2021. When people wear their masks, in the queue for example, the distance to be respected is 1 m.
Unadvisable moments of conviviality
Since the December 8th, 2021, moments of conviviality such as the starting or end of year drinks are suspended.