Alerts

How to deal with the consequences of coronavirus 

 

From Labor law department

 

 

What measures must the employer take to protect the health of its employees?

The employer must carry out an occupational risk assessment.

This assessment must be renewed because of the epidemic in order to reduce as much as possible the risks of contagion in the workplace or during work by measures such as prevention, information and training actions and by the implementation of adapted means.

The employer must ensure that they are constantly adapted to take account of changing circumstances. He shall inform the employees.

Being informed of the situation

Employers must keep themselves informed on a daily basis of the instructions issued by the government (https://www.gouvernement.fr/info-coronavirus).

Consulting the Economic and social committee (« CSE»)

The CSE shall in principle be consulted if the measures taken lead to a significant change in the organization of work. Nevertheless, the employer retains the right to take precautionary measures if urgency so requires, before consulting the CSE.

Disseminating preventive measures to employees

The employer shall transmit the preventive measures by memo distributed by e-mail or posting, video, intranet, etc…

The employer must therefore remind:

  • hygiene measures and barrier gestures applicable to all employee:
    • wash their hands very regularly
    • cough or sneeze into his/her elbow
    • use disposable tissues
    • if possible, wear a mask when sick;
  • the responsibility of each person to take care of his or her health and the fact that in case of doubt about his or her state of health, it is advisable to turn either to the SAMU if there is an identified risk of contamination or to a town doctor in the opposite case;
    • appropriate prevention measures for so-called “fragile” people;
    • reinforced prevention measures for employees who have a significant risk of being contaminated

The employer must also train employees in the prevention measures implemented in the company and ensure that they are complied with.

Avoid travel to certain areas

Companies should avoid business travel in areas where the virus is actively circulating.

In an evolving context and as a precautionary measure, the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs advises postponing non-essential travel abroad, particularly outside the European Union, to limit the spread of the virus.

Take special measures for jobs requiring contacts

Transmission of the virus occurs through close contact with an already infected person, through inhalation of infectious droplets emitted when the infected person sneezes or coughs. For brief contacts, “barrier” measures (in particular very regular hand washing) make it possible to preserve the health of workers.

When contacts are prolonged and close, it may be advisable to supplement “barrier” measures by installing a courtesy zone of one meter and/or by cleaning surfaces with an appropriate product and/or by frequent hand washing etc…

The employer shall update its single risk assessment document

The company shall assess the risks due to the epidemic in order to minimize the risk of contagion in the workplace or at work. It shall also anticipate the risks linked to the epidemic and deal with the new risks generated by the deteriorated functioning of the company (fitting out of premises, reorganization of work, assignment to a new position, telecommuting, etc.).

 

What are the measures to be taken in the event of contamination of an employee?

The employer must take measures to disinfect the workspace, taking into account the fact that the coronavirus can probably survive 3 hours on surfaces:

– equipment for the persons in charge of cleaning floors and surfaces with a single-use gown, household gloves (the wearing of a respiratory protection mask is not necessary because of the absence of aerosolization by the floors and surfaces);

– maintenance of floors, giving preference to a wet wash-disinfection strategy so that:

  • floors and surfaces are cleaned with a single-use washing strip;
  • the floors and surfaces are then rinsed with water from the drinking water network with another single-use wash strip;
  • Sufficient drying time is allowed for these floors and surfaces;
  • the floors and surfaces must be disinfected with bleach diluted with a single-use wash strip different from the two previous ones;

 

– the waste produced by the contaminated person follows the conventional disposal route.

 

What measures should be taken in the event of a serious risk of contamination?

When an employee presents a serious risk of being contaminated, in particular due to a stay in an area where the virus is actively circulating, he or she is no longer subject to a 14-day period of confinement, unless he or she is off work.

The employer must therefore take precautionary measures taking this risk into account.

It may communicate the following measures during the 14 days following the identification of the risk:

– reorganize the workstation(s) concerned after risk analysis, giving priority to home office;

– if home office is not possible, inform the employee that he must:

  • avoid places where fragile people are present;
  • avoid any non-essential travel or meetings (conferences, meetings, etc.);
  • Sufficient drying time is allowed for these floors and surfaces;
  • the floors and surfaces must be disinfected with bleach diluted with a single-use wash strip different from the two previous ones;

– the waste produced by the contaminated person follows the conventional disposal route.

 

What measures should be taken in the event of a serious risk of contamination?

When an employee presents a serious risk of being contaminated, in particular due to a stay in an area where the virus is actively circulating, he or she is no longer subject to a 14-day period of confinement, unless he or she is off work.

The employer must therefore take precautionary measures taking this risk into account.

It may communicate the following measures during the 14 days following the identification of the risk:

– reorganize the workstation(s) concerned after risk analysis, giving priority to home office;

– if home office is not possible, inform the employee that he must:

  • avoid places where fragile people are present;
  • avoid any non-essential travel or meetings (conferences, meetings, etc.);
  • avoid close contacts (canteen, lifts, etc.);

– respect the usual hygiene measures, including frequent hand washing with soap or disinfection with a hydro-alcoholic solution if there is no water point nearby;

– Monitor the temperature twice a day;

– watch for symptoms of respiratory infection (fever, cough, difficulty breathing).

– The employee must call 15 if there are signs of respiratory infection within 14 days of return. In case of suspicion of an employee showing symptoms upon return from a risk area or following contact with an infected person, the employer must call 15.

The employer may also ask the employee not to report to work. If home office is not compatible with the company’s activity, the employee’s remuneration is maintained and the period of absence is assimilated to a period normally worked, entitling the employee to the same rights as the employees present in the company.

Home office is the preferred solution, it being specified that the risk of an epidemic may justify recourse to home office without the employee’s agreement. The implementation of home office in this context does not require any particular formalism.

 

What is the situation of the employee identified as a high-risk contact case?

The employment contract is then suspended. The employee receives daily social security benefits without application of the waiting period.

 

How can the situation of an employee forced to keep a child who is the subject of a period of isolation be managed?

If the work allows it, home office is the preferred solution.

The employer will have to approach the issue of home office with care, so that it is both profitable for the company and does not put the employee in difficulty in carrying out his work (especially in the case of childcare for a young child or a disabled child).

If no other solution can be adopted, the employee may be granted a sick leave for the recommended period of isolation. The regional public health authorities inform the employee concerned of the procedure to be followed with regard to the health insurance in order to benefit from this sick leave and the health insurance sends the employer, if necessary, the sick leave granted according to the derogation procedure set up in the context of crisis management

This is an exceptional derogation procedure and general practitioners are not currently competent to issue them.

 

How to manage the situation of the employee who is forced to keep his child because of the closure of the school?

If the work allows it, telecommuting is still the preferred solution. (Same reservations as before)

If no other solution can be chosen, the employee may be placed on sick leave and compensated. The employer must then declare the sick leave on the dedicated website: https://www.declare.ameli.fr.

The employee must send the employer a certificate in which he/she undertakes to be the only parent requesting the benefit of a sick leave in order to keep the child at home, indicating the name and age of the child, the name of the school and the municipality where the child is attending school and the period during which the school is closed.

The employer shall then send the elements necessary for the payment of the daily allowance in accordance with the usual procedure applicable to sick leave. The Ministry specifies that, as far as possible, the employer shall maintain the employee’s salary at the level of the compensation paid by the social security and the employer’s supplement for the employees concerned. In this case, the employer is automatically subrogated to the employee’s sickness insurance rights.

 

Can the employer require the employee concerned to take leave or reduce working time during the 14-day qualifying period?

The employer may change the dates of leave already taken by the employee to another period to cover the 14-day period, taking into account the exceptional circumstances pursuant to Article L. 3141-16 of the Labor Code. If the employee has not taken leave, the employer may not impose.

The « RTT » days at the employer’s free disposal may be freely positioned by the employer during the reference period. If the employer wishes to change their positioning during the period, he must do so within the time limit provided for in the collective agreement.

 

What are the general rules for exercising the right to withdraw?

Under Articles L. 4131-1 et seq. of the Labor Code, a worker may withdraw from a work situation that he has reasonable grounds to believe presents a serious and imminent danger to his life or health. He must alert the employer of this situation. This is an individual and subjective right.

In the present context, insofar as the employer has implemented the provisions laid down in the Labor Code and national recommendations (https://www.gouvernement.fr/info-coronavirus) aiming at protecting the health and safety of his staff, and has informed and prepared his staff, in particular in the context of staff representative institutions, the individual right to withdraw cannot in principle be exercise.

 

Does the employer have tools to cope with changes in his activity?

 

– In the event of a decline in activity

1/ If activity drops, the partial activity scheme may be requested by companies in exceptional circumstances.

Employees who, while remaining bound to their employer by a contract of employment, suffer a loss of wages attributable either to the temporary closure of the establishment or to a reduction in working hours, are entitled to a specific allowance which is payable by the State.

All requests from companies must be submitted on the dedicated portal https://activitepartielle.emploi.gouv.fr/.

2/ Companies may also apply to benefit from the FNE-Training instead of the partial activity in order to invest in the skills of employees.

Formalized by an agreement between the State (the DIRECCTE) and the company (or the skills operator – OPCO), the FNE-Training aims to implement training actions in order to facilitate the continuity of employees’ activity in the face of transformations resulting from economic and technological changes, and to encourage their adaptation to new jobs.

– In the event of an increase in activity

Certain provisions of the Labor Code allow for derogations from maximum working hours and rest periods, even if they are usually implemented pursuant to a company agreement or convention. They can be applied in emergency situations for limited periods after information and/or authorization from the labor inspectorate or the DIRECCTE and often consultation with the CSE.