On September 25, 2017, the French government adopted orders to reform French employment law, designed to bring more flexibility to employers, in particular to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to facilitate their functioning. We will be presenting in the upcoming weeks various measures introduced by these reforms.

One of the reforms concerns provisions to encourage employers to work from home, commonly referred to in France as “telework” (télétravail).

Telework may be implemented via a company collective agreement or policy, after consultation with personnel representatives. The collective agreement or policy outlines the conditions for telework, including conditions for terminating telework. An amendment to the employee’s employment agreement is no longer required. Instead, the employer and employee can agree by a simple email exchange. This, however, should be specified in the collective agreement or policy. An email exchange is also sufficient for occasional telework.

Any employer who refuses to grant the employee the right to work from home must indicate why. Criteria used to select which employees may telework must therefore be objective and non-discriminatory.

The company agreement or policy must also provide for means to count the employee’s working hours and monitor his/her activity and work load while at home, for example by putting in place remote monitoring tools.

The policy must further determine the hours during which the employer can contact the employee. This impacts work accidents, deemed to include incidents at the employee’s home during scheduled working hours. This also enables employees working from home to disconnect from their work day to achieve work life balance.

Finally, the employer no longer needs to bear all costs related to telework (equipment, phone/internet bills, home electric compliance, insurance for professional use of the home) and may define which expenses it will cover. This should encourage employers to offer its employees the possibility to work from home, whether permanently or occasionally, on a full time or part time basis. It also means employers may need to denounce existing schemes and conditions which are more beneficial to employees. In making such assessments, we would recommend that employers distinguish between situations where the employee is asked to work from home (because there is no office, for example) and those where the employee asks to work from home.

Going forward, we would advise not to enter into contract amendments regarding telework, even before a company collective agreement or policy is implemented.