How likely is it France will scrap mandatory face masks in the workplace?

A new poll shows that the overwhelming majority of French workers want the enforcement of mask wearing overturned. But national health authorities say it's still too soon.

Most French workers are against forced masked wearing at work according to a new poll.
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

A poll conducted by Ipsos-Sopra Steria, and newspaper Le Parisien, found that a whopping 74 percent of salaried workers in France want to be given the option to not wear masks at work. 

The survey of 1,118 people conducted in late September and published on Monday found that just 8 percent of the French workforce were resolutely in favour of keeping the mandatory mask rule at the office. 

Under French law, employers are required to “take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and physical and mental health of workers.” 

At present, mask wearing is obligatory in all public-facing jobs, in closed indoor workplaces and work vehicles where there is more than one person at a time. For those employed in workshops or outside, mask wearing is not currently necessary unless a 2 meter social distancing gap cannot be maintained or unless there is not sufficient ventilation. 

READ MORE: Remote working, office parties – These are the new health rules in French workplaces

Public dissatisfaction with current mask regulations is reflective of the fact that most of the population are vaccinated according to Brice Teinturier – the head of Ipsos France. 

“We are in the logic of what Emmanuel Macron declared last July: it is not up to the vaccinated to put up with restrictions made by those who oppose it [vaccination],” he told Le Parisien

Workers in the French capital complained about the measure to The Local. 

“I respect the rule but I don’t think it is justified,” said Maâti Cherakaoui, a 43-year-old engineer. “I don’t know how useful it is in preventing the spread of the virus.” 

Victor Dentas, a 40-year-old security guard was more straightforward. “It is limiting in the sense that masks are just not very comfortable,” he said. “I think that by the time 90 percent of the population is vaccinated, they will not be so useful.” 

READ MORE: Health pass, indoor masks, end to free tests – France announces new Covid measures

At present, 84 percent of the French population over the age of 12 is vaccinated. But France’s High Council of Public Health insists that “the best strategy to reduce the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus is to combine masks with physical distancing. Wearing a mask is the only effective measure when a physical distance of at least 1 meter is not guaranteed.”

A meta-analysis of six separate peer-reviewed papers found that mask wearing can reduce the risk of catching covid by 60 percent. 

Vaccinated people are at less risk of falling seriously ill from COVID-19, but can still get infected and transmit the virus to others – this is scientific fact.

Abandoning mandatory mask regulations also risks putting those with various chronic conditions at risk. Renaloo, a patients’ association for people with kidney illness tweeted: ‘Removing masks from the workplace would exclude those who are seriously immunosuppressed.’ 

According to Covaxinfo, a health science website run by Professor Yonathan Freund, an emergency medicine doctor, vaccinated people should continue to wear masks. “For as long as not enough people are vaccinated and the virus continues to circulate, the respect of protective measures is indispensable,” he wrote.  

The poll, published in Le Parisien, found that 67% of respondents wanted to see the health pass (passe sanitaire) used as requirement to enter the work place. For now, it is only obligatory for workers in direct contact with the public. The health pass could remain a facet of life in France up until the summer of 2022.

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EXPLAINED: Why it just became a little easier to be self-employed in France

Life might be a bit easier for self-employed workers in France now that a new law has gone into effect. Here are the details.

EXPLAINED: Why it just became a little easier to be self-employed in France

Over three million people are considered “self-employed” in France, and their lives might have become a bit easier now that the “law in favor of independent professional activity” has officially come into force. 

Voted on in February 2022 under Macron’s first mandate, the law, which came into effect on May 15th, seeks to create a simpler and, above all, more protective legal, fiscal and social environment for “artisans, shopkeepers, micro-entrepreneurs and people of liberal professions.”

Who exactly does the changes cover?

The changes could impact France’s three million “travailleurs independents” which includes all kinds of self-employed workers working in many different professions.

The one self-employed status in France probably most familiar to readers is micro-entrepreneur but many kinds of small business owners and contractors are also considered travailleurs independents.

Now, here are the changes worth knowing about:

A better protection and separation of personal assets

One of the most important changes this law will bring is a more clear separation between personal and professional assets. As of May 15th, those registered as ‘self-employed’ (micro-entrepeneur/ entreprise individuelle) will see their personal and professional assets automatically separated. This means that should there be professional financial constraints, particularly involving creditors, the self-employed person’s personal assets will be more protected from being seized if the individual runs  into problems. This includes places of residence, personal vehicles, and movable assets. 

However, Assembly rapporteur Marie-Christine Verdier-Jouclas warned previously: “We should not expect miracles, because the most important creditors, including banks, will continue to require special securities on certain assets of entrepreneurs, including their personal property.”

Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said: “We expect banking institutions to take all responsibility in the implementation of this reform. We will be very vigilant.”

It will be easier to claim the unemployment benefit for the self-employed

Self-employed people will now have an easier time claiming the “allowance of independent workers” (L’allocation pour les travailleurs indépendants) which is essentially an unemployment benefit specifically directed at the self-employed.

Now, they must simply be able to show that they have involuntarily lost employment – meaning the activity they were performing as a self-employed person is no longer viable. Previously, self-employed workers were required to be going through the legal process of “receivership or judicial liquidation” to claim this allowance. Now, a ‘cessation of activity’ can be certified by a trusted third party, such as a chartered accountant. 

In order to qualify for this benefit, self-employed workers now must prove at least €10,000 of income spanning over one of the last two years, in contrast to the previous rule that required a minimum of €10,000 on average over the last two financial years. The benefit will depend on the earnings of the worker, with the maximum amount being €800 per month, and the minimum being €600.

The benefit can be paid for up to six months (182 days), and it is not renewable. 

It will be easier access to professional training (the ‘CFP’) 

In return for the contribution to professional training (CFP) to which they are subject, self-employed workers can, under certain conditions, benefit from total or partial financing of their professional training. But for this, they must be patient. With the NAF code of their activity, they must identify the training access fund (FAF) to which they belong. To make their task easier, the legislator has listed the different FAFs on the website.

If you are wondering whether your professional activity fits into this definition, but you are not sure, you can reach out to your local Chambres du Commerce et de l’Industrie. Be advised that some fields, like practicing law, for example, cannot claim this status.