Companies: What is the legal antidote to COVID-19 in France?

Everyone is involved in limiting the spread of this new coronavirus, and the efforts of employers must be combined with those of employees. HR, HSE, Compliance, etc., your role is crucial in this crisis management. You will find hereunder some basic reminders and legal tools to fight against the propagation of the virus while maintaining business activity.

1/ First steps

You must take all measures to ensure the safety and protect the physical and mental health of employees

Anticipation is essential, in particular :

  • Comply with health recommendations, which are regularly updated on the government website: https://www.gouvernement.fr/info-coronavirus
  • Update your single risk assessment document in order to minimize contagion and take appropriate measures.
  • Meet (preferably by videoconference) with your staff representatives (Social and Economic Committee, Health and Safety Commission). 
  • Systematize "barrier gestures/measures" by publishing and posting them within your premises or on your Intranet sites. 
  • When workers have prolonged and close contacts, barrier measures must be completed by additional measures (e.g. by establishing a courtesy zone (one meter), cleaning of surfaces, etc.). 
  • Rely on the advice of the occupational health services
  • Regularly inform employees, but also partners and customers about your management of the situation.
NB: The employee has a duty to provide information. In the event of a situation of serious and imminent danger, he/she must also alert you immediately, by any means.

2/ What responses to the crisis situation at the edge of “Stage 3?

Immediate response : adjusting working conditions and working time

  • Intensify the use of home working/telework, where possible. Employee approval is not required in the event of a epidemic.
  • Limit your employees' travel to the strict minimum necessary for the company's activity (cancel lunches, appointments, group meetings to be replaced by videoconferences, telephone calls, etc.). In high-risk areas, trips must be postponed.
  • Ensure that your premises comply with health regulations when home working is not possible.
  • Encourage the taking of paid leave (or even impose it when it has already been taken) or "RTT".
  • Exceptional derogations from maximum daily or weekly working hours may be introduced. 
  • Restrict access to the premises.

In the medium/long term

  • Partial unemployment is an alternative. This mechanism may be used in the event of a massive absence of employees essential to the activity, temporary interruption of non-essential activities, and a drop in activity due to the epidemic, administrative closure of an establishment, etc. The request is made via the portal https://activitepartielle.emploi.gouv.fr/aparts/. Instructions have been given to reduce the investigation period (normally 15 days) to 48 hours.

In the context of partial activity, to date, the employer must pay the employee a compensatory allowance corresponding to at least 70% of the previous gross remuneration (100% in the case of training) and receives an allowance co-financed by the State and Unedic, the amount of which should be reassessed by decree in the coming days (to bring it up to 8.04 euros for companies employing between 1 and 250 employees).

  • Mobilisation of training actions in consultation with the "FNE ("Fonds National de l'Emploi")-Formation".

3/ How to deal with a confirmed case, a suspicion, or the absence of employees?

Managing cessation of work

  • "Absence par ricochet" (i.e absence caused by an external factor), cases of closure of kindergartens, schools, etc. :

Employees who are parents of a child under 16 are covered by the Health Insurance if it is impossible to work from home. The employer must make a declaration on the Health Insurance website: https://declare.ameli.fr/declaration. The specific terms and conditions for benefiting from these work stoppages are recalled on this site. Compensation (non-automatic) is paid without a waiting period. To date, it is 14 calendar days. A template of statement of custody o child at home is proposed by the government. 

  • Employees infected or possibly infected. They are entitled to sick leave under normal conditions of care, without waiting period. In case of strong suspicion, the employee or the employer can contact the 15 ("SAMU", or medical emergency service). 
  • Employees identified as high-risk "contact cases" by the ARS (regional health agency) (either the employee is directly contacted by the ARS or after the employee has contacted the ARS), the ARS or Health Insurance doctor issues a sick leave which will be forwarded to the employer and the health insurance organism. The employee does not need to inform you and will be covered under the above-mentioned derogatory conditions.

Managing social relations

Set up meetings with staff representatives, by videoconference, when possible. Postponing meetings in consultation with them may also be considered.


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