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Halt in France’s activity and short-time work system during Covid-19 epidemic

Caution is advised


On Monday evening President Emmanuel Macron announced the implementation of a general containment measure throughout France to combat the spread of the coronavirus. While this measure clearly entails the introduction of teleworking for all employees who can do so, it does not oblige companies to reduce or cease their activity.

Since Tuesday, and Prime Minister's Edouard Philippe’s televised speech, the government has amended its announcement and insists that business activity must continue. Questions and Answers (Q&As) published today on the website.

Statement: containment measures must not result in a halt in the country’s activity.

Company activity must not stop, but must adapt to deal with the health crisis. Only those activities that involve gatherings of people and are not essential to the life of the nation (bars, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, shopping centres, etc.), that are listed in the Decree of 15 March 2020 (OJ 16th) must stop.

For the other sectors, the Q&As from the Ministry state: the rule of conduct is business continuity, applying the appropriate measures, i.e. observing the prevention measures stipulated by the government. These adjustments are of a kind to ensure the protection of employees while ensuring the continuance of economic activity.  Employees must, therefore, continue to go to their workplaces when teleworking is not possible.

The Direcctes (Directions régionales des entreprises, de la concurrence, de la consommation, du travail et de l’emploi) haves already relayed this message. Therefore, they are reiterating that activities that are not affected by the opening prohibitions (building and public works sites, industrial facilities, warehouses, wholesale markets, deliveries, crafts, agricultural holdings, etc.) must continue. This continuation must be carried out, for the positions that can do so, through the introduction of teleworking, and for those that cannot telework, observing the Ministry of Employment’s (in French: Ministère du Travail) health guidelines (point 16 of the Ministry of Employment’s Q&As).

Principle: partial activity is limited to companies whose activity is impacted by the Covid-19 epidemic.

All companies with a reduction in activity due to the coronavirus epidemic and in particular those subject to a closure requirement under the Decree of 15 March 2020 are eligible for the partial activity scheme. This scheme can be activated in a dematerialised manner on this website   Companies have 30 days to submit their request, which will be dealt with retrospectively.

For other companies (industrial, construction, craft, agricultural), the rule is to continue to respect protective measures (teleworking, respecting distance, no meetings with too many participants, etc.). Therefore, “if the circumstances lead to the postponement of certain projects or even the cessation of particular activities if the employer believes that they cannot ensure the safety of health, the cessation of the activity is not the rule, but the exception”.

Given the positions taken by the government and relayed by the Direcctes, it is likely that partial activity, in the context of a cessation of activity, will only be allowed in a restrictive way by the Direcctes: only companies, the activity of which has been reduced as a result of the Covid-18 epidemic, should be able to benefit from the partial activity scheme. Therefore, vigilance is required.

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