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HEALTH

End of télétravail? France’s new rules for employees to return to work

Working from home will cease to be the norm as France lays out new protocols for people returning to work.

End of télétravail? France's new rules for employees to return to work
Photo: AFP

The French government will this week lay out new protocols that will allow more people to return to work, including abolishing the recommendation that everyone should work from home if possible.

As France has gradually reopened, government advice has remained the same as it was at the height of the lockdown – that people who can work from home should continue to do so if possible.

The recommendation was intended to avoid large numbers of people in workplaces, as well as easing crowding on public transport at peak times in cities.

But now a new protocol, set to be published in its final form later in the week, scraps this recommendation.

The join Health Ministry and Labour Ministry document suggests;

  • Scrapping the recommendation that people work from home, although this will still be possible if employers and employees come to an agreement. The government suggests that employers look favourably upon requests to workers to continue working remotely, if this is possible
  • Cutting the space requirement from 4m sq per employee to 1m sq, mirroring the changes already introduced in schools. This would mean that most businesses could have all their employees in the workplace at the same time without falling fall of the restrictions
  • Masks will only be recommended for workplaces if distance rules cannot be complied with. Some workers in public-facing roles – such as waiters and shop assistants – would continue to wear masks
  • Hand washing facilities and hand gel to be made available to all employees 
  • Gloves are not recommended
  • Each company must appoint a 'Covid delegate' to be responsible for hygiene regulations
  • In large workplaces, one-way system should be set up to avoid employees crossing paths too often

While keen for France to reopen as much as possible, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has also urged caution, telling French media: “Our interest is not the short term, but the long term. If tomorrow a relaxation led to the appearance of a cluster in a restaurant, for example, we would lose all the benefit of what has been done so far.”

For employees who fall into high-risk groups for Covid-19 there are extra protections in place.

READ ALSO What are your employment rights in France if you are in a Covid-19 high-risk group?

 

 

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POLITICS

Income tax, property grants and cigarettes: What’s in France’s 2023 budget?

France's finance minister has unveiled the government's financial plans for the next year, and says that his overall aim is to 'protect' households in France from inflation and rises in the cost of living - here's what he announced.

Income tax, property grants and cigarettes: What's in France's 2023 budget?

The 2023 Budget was formally presented to the Council of Ministers on Monday, before economy minister Bruno Le Maire announced the main details to the press. 

The budget must now be debated in parliament, and more details on certain packages will be revealed in the coming days, but here is the overview;

Inflation – two of the biggest measures to protect households from the rising cost of living had already been announced – gas and electricity prices will remain capped in 2023, albeit at the higher rate of 15 percent, while low-income households will get a €100-200 grant. The energy price cap is expected to cost the government €45 billion in 2023.

EXPLAINED: What your French energy bills will look like in 2023

Property renovations – the MaPrimeRenov scheme, which gives grants to householders for works that make their homes more energy-efficient, will be extended again into 2023, with a budget of €2.5 billion to distribute.

Income tax – the income tax scale will be indexed to inflation in 2023, so that workers who get a pay increase to cope with the rising cost of living don’t find themselves paying more income tax. “Disposable income after tax will remain the same for all households even if their salary increases,” reads the 2023 Budget.

Pay rises –  pay will increase for teachers, judges and other civil servants as inflation is forecast to reach 4.3 percent next year after 5.4 percent in 2022. Around €140 million is assigned to increase the salaries of non-teaching staff in schools. 

New jobs – nearly 11,000 more public employees will be hired, in a stark reversal of President Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 campaign promise to slash 120,000 public-sector jobs – 2,000 of these jobs will be in teaching. 

Small business help – firms with fewer than 10 employees and a turnover of less than €2 million will also benefit from the 15 percent price cap on energy bills in 2023. The finance ministry will put in place a simplified process for small businesses to claim this aid. In total €3 billion is available to help small businesses that are suffering because of rising costs. 

Refugees – In the context of the war in Ukraine, the government plans to finance 5,900 accommodation places for refugees and asylum seekers in various reception and emergency accommodation centres. The budget provides for a 6 percent increase in the “immigration, asylum and integration” budget.

Cigarettes – prime minister Elisabeth Borne had already announced that the price of cigarettes will rise “in line with inflation”.

Ministries – Le Maire also announced the budget allocation for the various ministries. The Labour ministry is the big winner with an increase of 42.8 percent compared to last year, coupled with the goal to reach full employment by 2027. Education gets an increase of €60.2 billion (or 6.5 percent more than in 2022), much of which will go on increasing teachers’ salaries, while the justice and environment ministries will also see increased budgets.

Conversely, there was a fall in spending for the finance ministry itself.

Borrowing –  the government will borrow a record €270 billion next year in order to finance the budget. “This is not a restrictive budget, nor an easy one – it’s a responsible and protective budget at a time of great uncertainties,” said Le Maire. 

The government is tabling on growth of one percent, a forecast Le Maire defended as “credible and pro-active” despite an estimate of just 0.5 percent GDP growth by the Bank of France, and 0.6 percent from economists at the OECD.

The public deficit is expected to reach five percent of GDP, as the EU has suspended the rules limiting deficit spending to three percent of GDP because of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Parliament

The budget plans now need to be debated in parliament where they are likely to face fierce opposition. Emmanuel Macron’s centrist LREM party and its allies lost their majority in elections earlier this year.

Macron also plans to push ahead with a pension reform that would gradually start pushing up the official retirement age from 62 currently, setting up a standoff with unions and left-wing opposition parties.

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