What are France's new Covid rules for workers?

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What are France's new Covid rules for workers?

The week that France returned to school and work saw a sharp uptick in Covid cases - 54,699 new cases in one week. So now that the emergency provisions have ended, what does this mean if you or your colleague tests positive?


Now that the state of health emergency has ended, so have many of the fast-track provisions such as getting an arrête maladie (sick note) online - leaving many people confused about what to do if they test positive, or if one of their colleagues does.

Since the Covid emergency provisions have ended, many of the processes for the workplace have reverted to pre-pandemic systems.

French newspaper Le Parisien spoke to an employment law specialist and an expert in workplace health to establish what this means in case of a positive Covid test.



Most French pharmacies still offer Covid testing on a walk-in basis, and it's also possible to get a test via your doctor or at a medical laboratory.

Antigen and PCR tests remain free for over 65s, under 18s, health professionals or those in high-risk groups such as people with a long-term illness. The rest of the population will pay up front (usually around €20 for an antigen test or €50 for a PCR) and get the costs reimbursed via their carte vitale or mutuelle. Either an antigen or PCR tests can be used to secure an arrêt maladie.

If you test positive there is no longer a requirement to isolate, but it remains strongly recommended that you stay home as much as possible, inform people you have been in close contact with and wear a mask when you go out. 

Time off work

During the pandemic a positive Covid test meant you could automatically get an arrêt maladie - the certificate allowing you paid time off work - without having to visit a doctor.

This provision has now ended, and so now you will need a GP or family doctor to issue you with an arrêt maladie - many doctors have kept a télémedicine (virtual consultation) service, so you can use this if you don't want to visit the doctor's cabinet.

Whether you get an arrêt maladie is up to you - obviously if you have severe symptoms and cannot work you will need one, but for people with mild or no symptoms who feel well enough to work, the choice is theirs.

Remote working

If your job allows it, the practical option for people who have tested positive but want to keep on working is working from home (télétravail).


Remote working remains strongly recommended for people who have tested positive for Covid, but is not compulsory.

If you ask to work remotely your employer does not have to agree (although they do have to provide a reason for their refusal) and can require an employee to come into the workplace (unless they have an arrêt maladie).

Conversely, the employer cannot make decisions about an employee based on their health, so they cannot order a Covid-positive staff member to work from home if they don't want to.  

Protection for colleagues

So what happens if one of your colleagues tests positive but remains in the workplace (either because the boss won't allow télétravail or because they don't want to)?

The company has a duty of care to protect the physical and mental health of its employees.

In the case of a Covid-positive person in the workplace "the employer must therefore ensure that the patient does not transmit the Covid-19 virus to his or her colleagues," said workplace health specialist Dr Élisabeth Pagel.

"The boss should reinforce the barrier measures in the workplace and ask the employee concerned, and others, to wear a mask and respect the rules of distancing. The employee must comply with the employer's instructions on this".

If you're worried about being in the workplace with a sick colleague, you can also request to work from home - although the boss is not obliged the grant the request. You can also ask the boss to reinforce protective measures such as mask wearing.

Employees in France do have the right to walk off the job if they feel unsafe, but the onus is on you to prove that your employer has put you in an unsafe position.

Employment law specialist Anne Leleu told Le Parisien: "The possibilities of recourse to the droit de retrait (or right of withdrawal, which allows an employee to leave his or her workstation when a situation presents a serious and imminent danger) are very limited, once the employer has taken the necessary preventive and protective measures and since the epidemic situation has ended".

What about vulnerable employees?

The special legal provisions for employees in high-risk groups such as those with a long-term medical condition or a compromised immune system, came to an end in January 2023. 

"No official text stipulates the obligation to set up separate rooms for vulnerable employees," said Anne Leleu. "But employers are advised to be vigilant about the risk of discrimination against them. Any decision must be based on professional criteria and not on personal considerations outside the workplace".


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