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Télétravail: What are the rules as French workers return to the office?

Télétravail: What are the rules as French workers return to the office?
Since March 2020, the government's recommendation is that anyone whose job can be done from home should work entirely from home. Photo: Philippe LOPEZ / AFP
While the easing of restrictions means restaurants, cafés, shops and cultural venues are now open, working from home continues to be the rule in France for the time being. But when can we expect to go back to the workplace?

Since March 2020, the government’s recommendation is that anyone whose job can be done from home should work entirely from home, known in French as télétravail. This is still the rule for the time being, before the next step of the relaxing of restrictions on June 9th.

Who should still be working from home?

Everyone who can work from home should be doing so. Under current rules, all companies must allow their employees to work from home if the employee requests it.

However the Labour ministry and the National Association of Human Resources Directors (ANDRH) say they have already noticed a high number of people returning to the workplace.

The Labour ministry’s protocol also states that employees who feel that their mental health is being adversely affected by 100 percent home-working can have one day a week in the workplace.

When can I start to go back to the workplace?

A relaxing of restrictions will begin on June 9th, as part of the third phase of loosening restrictions.

From this date employers can start to ask their employees to progressively return to the office. The Labour ministry is expected to provide more details on this in the coming days.

Each company will have to decide on a minimum amount of days per week that it will allow its employees to work from home, and they will have to ensure a strict social distancing measures for returning to the office in order to ensure the safety of its workers.

READ ALSO: Your rights and responsibilities if you work from home in France

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Do I have to go back on June 9th?

Some employees will be keen to get back into the workplace and see their colleagues again, while others have grown to like home-working.

Where you work is a conversation between employer and employee. Before the pandemic, the rules said that if the employee requested to work from home the employer could refuse, but had to give a reason.

Conversely, employees could refuse requests to work from home and did not have to give a reason.

During the health emergency, however, bosses were able to compel employees to work from home while employees have more rights to work from home if they want to.

While the pandemic is still ongoing, it will be difficult for employers to say no to requests to work from home, lawyer Dahlia Arfi-Elkaïm told Le Parisien. “If employers want their employees to come back to the office they will have to justify why working from home is no longer an option,” she said.

While June 9th marks the end of the government recommendation to work from home, employees can continue doing this if they and their bosses agree.

According to the annual barometer on working from home by Malakoff Humains, the ideal situation for most people is a maximum of two days of working from home per week.

What is the health protocol when returning to the office?

Earlier this week, the health ministry revealed its new updated health protocol following the latest recommendations from the Public Health Council.

Employers must ensure that workplaces are properly ventilated, which is considered an essential measure for preventing high risk situations where Covid-19 can spread more easily.

READ ALSO: France can ‘turn the page’ on Covid crisis by November, says health minister

Keeping the windows open is therefore highly recommended, or even installing CO2 detectors to measure the carbon dioxide in the air. 

Wearing a mask both inside and outside the office remains a requirement.

And when it comes to canteens and office kitchens, the rule is for one single person to sit at a table at one time. This measure could soon be relaxed, but socialising or having a coffee with colleagues is still not allowed.

What about employees who haven’t been vaccinated?

The updated health protocols encourage employers to authorise their staff to get vaccinated during work hours. Employees will just need to let their bosses know that they will be absent “for a medical visit”, without having to specify the reason.

The updated protocol also introduces the option of home-testing kits in the workplace.

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