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COVID-19: French Government Announces Recommendations to Companies on Mask Wearing, Remote Working

August 25, 2020

The French government has announced that the wearing of masks in enclosed and shared spaces within private and public companies will be mandatory as of September 1, 2020. The implementation of barrier gestures and the practice of teleworking is still strongly recommended.

Wearing Masks in Enclosed and Shared Spaces

The French government has decided to implement a recommendation made by the High Council of Public Health (HCSP) on August 14, 2020 on the need to wear masks in all enclosed spaces, both public and private.

Thus, on August 18, 2020, during a meeting with the social partners, the Minister of Labour announced the mandatory wearing of masks in enclosed spaces shared by companies.

This obligation will be included in the protocol announced for the end of August, which will be titled "National protocol to ensure the health and safety of employees in companies during the COVID-19 period." This protocol will be a continuation of the currently applicable protocol ("National deconfinement protocol for companies to ensure the safety and health of employees").

The wearing of masks in companies will therefore be mandatory in meeting rooms, open spaces, corridors, changing rooms, or shared offices. On the other hand, an employee in an individual office will not be required to wear a mask.

Adaptations will also be possible on a case-by-case basis for workspaces separated by Plexiglas or with low levels of proximity.

Maintaining Barrier Gestures and Recommending Work From Home

The obligation to wear a mask is in addition to the requirement to maintain a distance of at least one metre between employees. The employer must therefore continue to limit the number of people present simultaneously in the same space, and must continue to implement barrier gestures.

Particular vigilance is required of employers providing accommodation for their employees, for example on construction sites, to allow compliance with physical distancing and barrier gestures.

Working from home will remain a recommended practice. Companies are invited to formalize with their trade unions the lessons learned from the implementation of work-from-home during the peak of the epidemic.

Sanctions

The measures mentioned above are recommendations made by the Ministry of Labour. No sanction is directly attached to them at this stage.

However, as the employer is required by law to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety and physical and mental health of its employees (Article L. 4121-1 of the French Labour Code), if the employer fails to comply with any of the recommendations of the Ministry of Labour, he/she may be held liable under this obligation. The labour inspectorates are already extremely vigilant with regard to the implementation of the measures recommended by the government.

Return to Work Resources

We have developed many customizable resources to support employers’ efforts in safely returning to work. These include tracking of state and local orders on return to work requirements and essential/nonessential work; policy templates and guidelines for key topics such as social distancing procedures, temperature testing, and workplace arrangements for high-risk employees; and webinar training on safety measures for return to work. View the full list of return to work resources and consult our workplace reopening checklist.

Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force

For our clients, we have formed a multidisciplinary Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force to help guide you through the broad scope of legal issues brought on by this public health challenge. Find resources on how to cope with the post-pandemic reality on our NOW. NORMAL. NEXT. page and our COVID-19 page to help keep you on top of developments as they unfold. If you would like to receive a digest of all new updates to the page, please subscribe now to receive our COVID-19 alerts, and download our biweekly COVID-19 Legal Issue Compendium.

Contacts

If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Paris
Sabine Smith-Vidal
Laetitia de Pelet