Employee and Employer Rights During Covid 19 Pandemic: France


What current restrictions are in place by the government?

France is in lockdown since 17th March for a minimum duration of 15 days (extended at short notice if necessary). Within the country people are allowed to go outside only for food shopping, medical appointments and exercise.

Persons going outside will need to present a certificate (government website) stating their reason. France also follows a 30-day travel ban recently introduced in EU-countries to travel outside the Union (with the current exception of the UK).

What are the general principles an employer should or could apply?

Pursuant to French law, an employer is responsible for the physical and psychological health and safety of the employees in the workplace and in this respect give instructions and take safety measures as reasonably can be expected from the employer.

Below we have set out the general principles which French employers should and could apply. These principles will be in line with the general principles of other countries and are permitted under French law.

  • Implement a (verbal) policy to decrease face-to-face meetings and travel less both professionally as privately
  • Assess the risks faced by employees and visitors and implement measures to mitigate those risks, paying particular attention to vulnerable staff (such as those who are pregnant; with impaired immunity; on secondment or working away from home)
  • Review the need for flexible working and whether existing contracts and working arrangements permit such flexibility, and if not, consider how this might be achieved
  • Review policies governing business travel, holidays, sickness, caring for dependants and home working to ensure a reasonable and consistent approach, taking account of their risk assessment and government guidance
  • Review relevant insurance policies and guidance issued by their insurers
  • Update contact details for staff and management
  • Devise arrangements for dealing with staff who have to travel abroad; who may be at particular risk of contracting CoVID-19; or who report symptoms and may have CoVID-19

What are the sick pay rules in France?

In France paid sick leave is paid partly by social security (Sécurité sociale) and partly by the employer. It requires a medical justification no later than 48 hours after the first sick day. Social security only pays one part of the treatment, starting at the fourth day, and can make controls. Sick leave. To be able to benefit from daily allowances, contributions have to have been paid for 200 hours during the 3 months prior to stopping work.

If the employee is quarantined, does the employer still have to pay the salary?

Leave benefits available to employees impacted by the coronavirus:

Employees with a COVID-19 infection that has been confirmed by a doctor can receive the conventional sick leave benefits, plus a social security allowance. 

Employees in quarantine can receive an allowance of 20 days’ pay from the French social security system and additional compensation paid by the employer.  The latter is similar to what applies for regular sick leaves, but without a waiting period.   

If teleworking is not possible, employees who are parents of children under the age of 16 impacted by a school closure can benefit from a “work leave.”  As this work leave benefits only one parent, the employee must provide a statement to the employer, certifying that they are the only parent who can look after the child at home.  From the business standpoint, the employer must declare the “work leave” on the health care insurance fund’s website, as of the date the leave commences.

An employee with a child infected with or exposed to the coronavirus can benefit from a specific leave related to the coronavirus.  The employee would be covered by the daily social security allowance without a waiting period, plus other conventional or legal compensation also without a waiting period.

Temporary closures:

Additionally, employees who suffer a loss of wages due to a temporary closure or reduction of hours can receive an allowance equal to at least 70% of the employee’s gross remuneration (absent more favorable CBA provisions).  The employer, in turn, can receive reimbursement from the State equal to 8,04 € for companies with 1 to 250 employees, and 7.23 € for companies with more than 250 employees.

To implement a temporary closure and reduce employees’ working hours, employers must meet very specific criteria and follow particularised rules, including inform and consult with the company’s works council (social and economic committee).

What if the employee refuses to come to the office?

All businesses are required to organise for their employees to work from home if at all possible. Only employees unable to work from home will be permitted to travel for work at present. A refusal of such employees could potentially lead to disciplinary measures, such as stopping the salary. Per case it needs to be determined if disciplinary measures can be taken. We also refer to the answers to the questions above/below.

If an employee is sent home what measures do employers have to take?

An employer must ensure that the employee is also working in a healthy and safe workplace at home.

Can an employer force an employee to work from home?

Please refer to question 5 “What if the employee refuses to come to the office”.

If on request of the employer, the employee should stay at home due to a suspicion of being infected, does the employer still have to pay the salary?

Please refer to point 4 “if the employee is quarantined, does the employer still have to pay the salary?”.

If childcare services and/or schools are closed, is it allowed for the employee to stay home? If yes, is the employee still entitled to his/her salary?

Please refer to point 4 “if the employee is quarantined, does the employer still have to pay the salary?”.

Can an employer forbid his employees to travel abroad privately and/or on business purposes?

The government advises to avoid travel to any of the “affected areas.” Therefore, an employer may restrict or postpone business travel. The employer can also ask employees to disclose where they have traveled for personal reasons, although the employee may choose not to answer. The employer cannot discipline employees who refuse to answer. 

The employer under recent circumstances – referring to point 4 – shall reconsider any travel requirements and implement a temporary restriction on travel for all staff, including management not to risk the possibility that employees might not be able to return to France.

Can an employer oblige employees to travel abroad for business?

The employer under recent circumstances – referring to point 4 – shall reconsider any travel requirements and implement a temporary restriction on travel for all staff, including management not to risk the possibility that employees might not be able to return to France. The government has issued advisories on high-risk areas.

Can the employer ask employees whether they have recently visited a risk area and if yes, what can the employer do?

Yes, employers can ask if employees have recently visited a risk area privately or professionally. If the employee has visited a risk area, the employer can request the employee to visit the company doctor and send the employee home. Insofar as possible, the employee can continue to work from home.

Can employers take the temperature of an employee?

The employer can offer this, but generally no, The CNIL (French Data Protection Authority) confirmed it this past Friday: employees should not monitor employees’ health symptoms.