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WORKING IN FRANCE

Reader question: Can my French boss force me to get a Covid vaccination?

The introduction of the health passport was intended to push people towards being vaccinated, but as an employee does your boss have the right to order you to get your doses?

Reader question: Can my French boss force me to get a Covid vaccination?
Photo: Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP

Question: I am fully vaccinated, but I know that several of my colleagues aren’t and they are worried they will be fired. Is it legal in France for bosses to order you to get the Covid vaccine?

The short answer to this is that it depends where you work.

The French labour ministry has published an updated protocol on the rights and responsibilities of employees when it comes to vaccinations and it broadly divides workers into three categories – health workers, workers in health passport venues and everyone else.

Health workers 

The law that introduced the health passport to France also made Covid vaccination mandatory for healthcare workers and employees in nursing homes. This also includes volunteers who work in a health or care setting.

Penalties – healthcare workers have until October 15th to be fully vaccinated and if they are not vaccinated after this time the employer may take sanctions against them.

However, being non-vaccinated does not alone provide grounds for dismissal. Employers are obliged to tell unvaccinated healthcare workers that they cannot work – the employee may choose to take annual leave, in which case they would be paid for days taken as holiday. If they have no holiday days left to take, they would not be paid for the days that they are not working.

The legality of requiring healthcare workers to be vaccinated has been approved by the Constitutional Council, but a test case between an employer and employee could still be brought before the French Council of State or, when French legal avenues are exhausted, the European Court of Human Rights (although the European court has ruled in favour of compulsory vaccination in several previous cases).

Health passport venue workers

From August 9th, a health passport is required to access many venues in France, and this includes both visitors and employees.

The venues concerned are: bars, cafés, restaurants, cinemas, museums, tourist or cultural sites, leisure and sports centres, medical centres or hospitals as a visitor or for people with non-emergency appointments, long-distance train, bus or (domestic) air travel or any venue with more than 50 people such as festivals and open-air gatherings.

READ ALSO When and where you need a health passport

Employees of those venues need to be able to show a health passport when they show up for work.

This isn’t technically obligatory vaccination, but in reality is similar – the health passport must show one of three things; fully vaccinated status, recovery from Covid within the last 6 months or a test within 72 hours. From mid October ‘convenience tests’ must be paid for at a rate of €29 for an antigen test or €49 for a PCR test. So unless employees who aren’t covered by the ‘recently recovered’ clause are willing to spend €29 every three days to get a test, they will need a vaccine. 

Penalties – employees of health passport venues have until August 30th before they need to show their pass (for visitors the rules are already in place) and this applies to full or part-time employees, contractors or temporary staff and volunteers at these venues.

Employees who cannot show the health passport may, with the employers’ agreement, take time off work using up holiday days, which they will be paid for. If the employer does not agree or the employee has no more holiday time left to take, they can be suspended from work. During the suspension they will not be paid.

The employer must hold a meeting with the employee within three days of the suspension to look at ways to regularise the situation, including offering remote working if this is possible.

The Constitutional Council has approved the rules for health passport venue employees, but added that they cannot be fired outright, and those on short-term contracts cannot have their contracts ended early, unless there are other reasons to terminate the contract.

Fully-vaccinated employees working in health passport venues no longer have to wear masks, although in areas with high case numbers local authorities can re-impose the mask rule and individual employers also have the right to tell their staff to wear masks in the workplace.

Everyone else

For those in workplaces not covered by the health passport, there is no obligation to be vaccinated or present the health passport.

However if a key part of your job involves accessing health passport venues (eg regular long-distance train travel around France) your boss could argue that you are unable to perform your usual role and begin internal disciplinary proceedings, however it is unlikely that this would be cause for dismissal and the usual procedures within the workplace would need to be followed.

What about people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons?

There are a small number of people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons – those people can obtain an attestation de contre-indication from their doctor to show their status as unable to be vaccinated, but they must fit into one of the criteria outlined by the health ministry.

Employer responsibility

Your boss also has some obligations in regard to vaccinations:

  • Employees must be allowed time off work to go to a vaccination appointment and must be paid for that time (including time travelling to and from the vaccination centre) although the employer is entitled to ask to see proof of the appointment.
  • Employees must also be given time off work if they need to accompany a child or vulnerable adult to a vaccination appointment.
  • Some larger companies also have workplace medical staff, and these staff are permitted to give vaccinations, although employees do not have to accept them.

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For members

WORKING IN FRANCE

How to get a summer job in France

As the summer holidays approach in France, many employers are looking for seasonal workers - so if you're looking for a summer job, here's how to go about it.

How to get a summer job in France

There are thousands of employment offers in France – a simple internet search for jobs d’été came up with numerous jobs boards offering work in France, while the government-backed Centre d’Information et de Documentation pour la Jeunesse (CIDJ) offers advice and information on all aspects of life for young people in France, including finding seasonal work and summer placements.

Sectors including agriculture, hospitality and tourism are always recruiting in the summer, seeking fruit-pickers, holiday camp workers and serving/hotel staff.

But what are the rules for people seeking summer jobs?

READ ALSO Vendange: What you really sign up for when you agree to help with the French wine harvest

Age

Children from the age of 16 (under certain circumstances, the age limit drops to 14) who are legally resident in France can work as long as they have written authorisation from their parents or legal guardians. A model authorisation letter is available here

Those under the age of 18 cannot undertake certain jobs for health and safety reasons.

In the following circumstances, children as young as 14 or 15 can work during school holidays.

  • The holidays must last at least 14 days;
  • The child must work no more than half the days of the holiday – so, if a vacation period is two weeks, they can work for no more than one of those weeks;
  • The child is given ‘light duties’ that offer no risk to their safety, health, or development;
  • From the age of 15 and if the child has completed their troisieme education, a minor can register for an apprenticeship. 

Salary

Salary is usually paid monthly and will have a payslip. For those aged 18 and over, pay will be at least equal to the minimum wage.

 For those aged 14 to 17, who have less than six months’ professional experience, the minimum allowed rate is 80 percent of the minimum wage. For those aged 17 to 18, the rate rises to a minimum of 90 percent of France’s minimum wage.

  • The minimum wage in France is currently €10.85 gross per hour (€1,645.58 gross per month based on a 35-hour week);
  • the employment contract is fixed-term and can take different forms (fixed-term contract, seasonal employment contract, temporary employment contract, etc);
  • Seasonal employees are subject to the same obligations as the other employees of the company and have access to the same benefits (canteens, breaks, etc.).

Under 18s have certain additional protections:

  • between the ages of 14 and 16, during school holidays, employees on any contract cannot work more than 35 hours per week nor more than 7 hours per day;
  • They cannot work at night;
  • Those aged 14 to under 16 working during their school holidays can only be assigned to work which is not likely to harm their safety, their health or development.

Right to work in France

If you’re a French citizen or hold permanent residency in France then you have the right to work, but for foreigners there are extra restrictions.

Anyone who holds the passport of a EU/EEA country or Switzerland, is free to work in France or to travel to France seeking work without needing a visa or work permit.

Most other people will need permission to work in France – even if it’s only for a short period or for casual work such as grape-picking. Depending on your country of origin you may need a visa – everything you need to know about that is here.

In addition to the visa, you may also need a work permit, which is the responsibility of the employer.  To employ anyone in France for less than 90 days, an employer must get a temporary work permit – before the prospective employee applies for a short stay visa. This permit is then sent to the embassy at which the employee is applying for a visa.

If you come from countries including the UK, USA and Canada you can spend up to 90 days in France without a visa – but you may still need a work (convention d’accueil) if you want to work while you are here.

READ ALSO Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in France

Certain countries have specific ‘seasonal worker’ visas on offer, for certain sectors which allows – for example – Canadians to come to France and work the ski season. 

Cash-in-hand jobs

Certain sectors which have a lot of casual workers – for example seasonal fruit-picking – do have cash-in-hand jobs, known in France as marché noir (black market) or simply travail au black (working on the black, or working illegally). 

This is of course illegal and working this way carries risks – as well as the possibility of losing your job if labour inspectors turn up you are also in a vulnerable position. If your employer suddenly decides not to pay you, or make unexpected deductions from your wages, there is very little you can do about it since you won’t have any kind of work contract. 

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