Can your boss in France force you to come to work when there’s a strike?

Unlimited strikes throughout France are causing major disruption, especially on public transport, but does that mean you don't have to go to work?

Can your boss in France force you to come to work when there's a strike?
Don't fancy fighting your way through these crowds? What are your options? Photo: AFP

The thought of braving the severely restricted public transport options available on strike days is not an appealing one – but what are the options for employees?

READ ALSO 'Black Monday in Paris' – transport chaos and torrential rain on day 5 of strike

Is this a reason to sack off work entirely?

Sadly no, your employer has the right to expect you to be at work and if you are not in it is up to you to prove that it was genuinely impossible (not merely difficult or uncomfortable) to get to your normal place of work.

In a compact city like Paris which has alternative means of transport such as Vélib' and scooters, this could be difficult.


Do you actually need to be in the office to do your job? Photo: AFP

If you're late in because of the strikes your employers doesn't have the right to take disciplinary action, but they could ask you to work extra hours to make up the time, or forfeit the wages for the time that you were not at work. That's unless you are covered by the collective agreement relative to your job.

What about working from home?

This seems like a reasonable compromise so that work still gets done, but the employee's travel stress is reduced. However, there are a lot of things that need to be thought through.

The first one, obviously, is whether it is possible to do your job remotely. Surgeons, for example, would find it fairly tricky to perform operations from their home.

But if your work is of the nature that it can be done anywhere with an internet connection then remote working (télétravail in French) is possible.

The employer and the employee have to agree in advance that this is what will happen. The employee can refuse to work from home without giving a reason (although this is not the same as refusing to work at all) while the employer can refuse, but must give a reason, explained French employment law specialist Eric Rocheblave.

If your boss refuses your remote working request and you don't show up at the office you could face disciplinary actions or even dismissal, he warned in newspaper Le Parisien.

New employment codes introduced in 2018 mean that there no longer needs to be a change to the employee's contract to allow the occasional day's remote working because of strike action or other reasons.

That said, however, there is still plenty for an employer to think about before they agree to the employee's request.

If you are working at home, your residence becomes your workplace for that day, with all that implies legally. For example, if you fall down your own stairs on a day you are working from home, that will count as a workplace accident and your employer could be liable.

(And let's not forget that a French court ruled that a man who died having sex with a stranger while on a business trip was the victim of a workplace accident, so employer liability can be strict in France). 

There is also the issue of cost compensation – will your company refund you for the cost of the electricity you use while working at home? Will the company provide you with a laptop or are you expected to use your own equipment?

The employer and employee also need to agree in advance the time slots when your boss can contact you with instructions or to monitor your work.

In short, it's complicated and ideally is something that needs to be agreed well in advance so the details can be thrashed out, even if that is not always possible with relatively last-minute events like strikes or extreme weather.

The Montpellier-based lawyer concluded: “Remote working, if not thought of in advance, is a source of litigation.

“That is why the Labour Code provides for a collective agreement or charter, which is supposed to impose safeguards.

“I advise companies that have not implemented remote working until today not to venture into it for tomorrow, but to think about it for the day after tomorrow.”

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What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer


But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.