What are the rules on going back to work after May 11th in France?

As France begins to loosen its strict lockdown from May 11th many people will be going back to work for the first time in almost two months - but things won't be exactly as normal.

What are the rules on going back to work after May 11th in France?
Photo: AFP

Who goes back to work?

Of course many people have been working throughout the lockdown period – essential workers like healthcare staff, supermarket employees and street cleaners – but many more will return as the country starts to loosen its lockdown from Monday, May 11th.

IN DETAIL This is France's plan for loosening its lockdown

But there are some workplaces that will stay closed until at least June including; bars, cafés, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, large museums and tourist attractions, holiday parks and campsites.

People not employed in those industries will start to return, but will find their working days are not the same.

Home working

Anyone who can work from home is asked to continue doing so at least until the start of phase 2 – which begins on June 2nd. 

In Paris the restrictions are likely to be a little stricter under a proposed deal between businesses, local authorities and public transport operators.

City authorities are worried that crowded Metros, buses and trams will make social distancing impossible and are proposing that businesses commit to continue to operate home working wherever possible.

“Together with the State, we propose that 100 percent of employees who are currently home-working should not return to the office during the week of May 11th.

“We want to aim for a target of 90 percent in the second week, then 80 percent until the summer,” said Valérie Pécresse, head of Île-de-France Mobilities. 

In order to enter public transport, employees in Paris may need an attestation from their employer stating that they cannot work from home.

There will be no restrictions on people walking or cycling to work, and the city is creating new temporary cycle lanes in the hopes that fewer people use public transport.

Health and safety measures

All businesses will be required to put in place measures to ensure that employees continue to social distance while at work.

You can read the full protocol for employers here, but among the measures bosses must take are;

  • Ensuring regular handwashing and use of hand gel
  • Regularly disinfect frequently-handled surfaces
  • Ventilate closed rooms every three hours for 15 minutes
  • Ensure physical distancing of at least 1m between employees or 4 square metres per person (so an office of 100 square metres must have no more than 25 employees at a time)

To ensure sufficient distance between employees, companies have been recommended to try measures such as staggered shift times.

Self-employed people must also ensure that their working practices respect the rules.

Employment Minister Muriel Pénicaud told FranceInfo: “The subject is first of all a work organisation issue that must be discussed with the social partners [such as unions] in the company and the employees.

“Measures are certainly binding for companies to put in place.

“I know it is difficult. But what is the alternative? I am not negotiating the health of employees. My role is to protect them.” 


Masks will not be compulsory in all workplaces, but will depend on the situation, added Pénicaud.

She gave the example of hairdressers, who are in close contact with their customers so will have to wear a mask (masks will also be compulsory for customers at hairdressers).

READ ALSO French hairdressers will reopen from May 11th – with strict rules

People in public facing roles and teachers are also likely to need to wear masks.

Public transport

This is a big concern in cities especially Paris, where mayor Anne Hidalgo has already announced plans for extra bike lanes in an attempt to limit public transport use.

Companies will also be encouraged to stagger shift times to avoid too many people using public transport at rush hour.

Masks will be compulsory on all public transport and in Paris, hand gel dispensers will be available in Metro, but and tram stops.

Is is compulsory to go back to work?

There are certain circumstances in which you can stay off work.

High risk groups – if you fall into one of the designated vulnerable groups (aged 65 or over or with a serious underlying health conditions) you are entitled to either work from home or remain off work if you are concerned that returning to work puts you at risk

Childcare – although schools are starting to reopen, it is a very gradual reopening with only a few classes at first so many parents will still be looking after children during the day. If your child's school has not reopened (or your child's year group is one of the ones allowed back) you are entitled to continue claiming the chômage partiel unemployment scheme.

Although sending children back to school is voluntary at first, parents who can send their child to school but choose not to may not be entitled to continue to claim chômage partiel.

READ MORE : Parents in France could lose right to crisis unemployment scheme from June

Home-working – under normal conditions your boss cannot order you to work from home if you don't want to, however part of the emergency legislation on coronavirus means that employers can compel employees to work from home.

Unsafe conditions – as is always the case in France, your employer does not have the right to continue to ask you to work in unsafe conditions.

However if you feel your employer has not brought in sufficient protections you cannot just walk off the job, you need to raise your concerns through formal channels first, usually through a union.

During the lockdown France's Labour Court has ruled that Amazon did not provide sufficient protection to its warehouse and distribution centre employees and ordered them to limit their deliveries to essential items only.



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Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 50,000 a week, and have been since the beginning of June – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 57 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – standing at 707 admissions on Friday, June 24th compared to 400 daily admissions just two weeks earlier.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test


The government’s Covid vaccine adviser Alain Fischer told France Info that he was in favour of making face masks compulsory on public transport again and said it is ‘being discussed” at government level.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.