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New lockdown in France: how can HR deal with it?

French President announced the lockdown of the entire country


Last Wednesday, French President Macron announced the lockdown of the entire country as of October 30th for a duration of 4 weeks minimum.

The purpose of this measure is clear: we need to fight against the virus, but the economy must not stop. Therefore:

  • When it is possible, working from home becomes an obligation.
  •  If not possible, employees can still go to work if they carry out an “essential” activity.

In this context, the French Labour Ministry published last night a new National Protocol to help employers organizing and adapting their activities during the lockdown.

  • Organize the employees’ activity:
    • When working from home is possible

Although it was only highly recommended until now, the new National Protocol confirms that working from home is now mandatory whenever it is possible.

Thus, it is time for companies to check and – as the case may be –update their working from home policies.

Under French law, terms and conditions of remote work can be set either by a company-level agreement or a specific policy (e.g. reimbursement of expenses, guarantees relating to the right to disconnect and the protection of employees’ private life…).

In the absence of agreement or policy, it is key for employers to precisely inform employees of their rights and duties when they are working from home to avoid any risk of litigation.

    • When it is not possible to WFH

The new National Protocol provides that trips between the company’s premises and the employee’s home must be reduced and time schedules rearranged to manage the flow of people.

Otherwise, barrier and social distancing measures must still be strictly applied in the company and employees must be provided with individual safety equipment.

The employer must also inform employees of the existence of the “TousAntiCovid” App and the advantage to activate it during working time.

Finally, the new National Protocol specifies that employers can propose and finance fast screening tests to volunteers providing medical confidentiality is guaranteed.

  • Apply to short-time work

Companies can apply for short-time work and benefit from a compensation for unworked hours amounting to 60% of their employees’ gross remuneration (https://activitepartielle.emploi.gouv.fr/aparts/).

The Government announced that the compensation will increase to 100% for employers obliged to close their business in the context of the new lockdown measure. 

  • Verify and update the health and safety policies in the company

If it has not been done yet, companies must update their risk assessment document to take into account all risks linked to the pandemic and the working from home situation.

Besides, a specific plan in case of COVID-19 suspicion must be implemented in the company in the event that an employee declares symptoms (as the case may be with the assistance of the occupational doctor).

  • Collaborate with staff representatives

The works council is competent regarding any decision relating to the company’s working organization or health and safety policy.

Therefore, it is key to inform and as the case may be consult it before implementing any decision relating to these topics.

  • Adapt day-to-day HR life to the lockdown

Finally, HR will have to adapt their practices to the lockdown situation, in particular regarding works council’s meetings, dismissals procedures, elections…

Last Spring, several regulations dealing with practical consequences of the lockdown for companies had been adopted for a temporary time period.

For instance, the Government authorized companies to proceed to pre-dismissal meetings by videoconference or stated that obligations relating to the implementation of staff representatives were suspended.

It is likely that authorities will adopt similar regulations to deal with this new lockdown.

Our employment team is at your disposal for any information or to help you in the implementation of adapted measures.

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