The French return to work sanitary protocol has been recently reinforced. Since a large number of clusters were recently discovered in workplaces, the Ministry of Labor published a new sanitary protocol (here) in order to ensure that companies and individuals remain "vigilant in the face of a persisting epidemic risk".
This new protocol is designed to be implemented over the long term taking into account the latest scientific findings on risks of contamination. It is generally in line with the previous protocol from 24 June 2020, as updated on 3 August 2020.
This new protocol is applicable as from 1 September 2020. The Ministry of Labor has indicated that there will be leniency of one week to allow companies time to adapt to these new rules.
- Personal protective equipment
- Work from home
- At-risk employees
- Employee information
- Coordination with the Health Authorities
- "Barrier gestures" and "good practices" to adopt
Personal protective equipment
All employees in closed/ shared workplaces (and areas where employees may encounter other employees for example meeting rooms, corridors, open space areas) are required to wear a mask.
The employer must put such masks at the disposal of employees and the costs must be borne by the employer.
The Ministry of Labor has indicated that non-compliance by an employee with the obligation to wear a mask could result in a disciplinary action.
Adjustments to this obligation may be arranged depending on the specificities of certain professional activities or sectors after carrying out an analysis of the risks of transmission and the prevention measures to be implemented. These adjustments vary depending on the level of circulation of the virus in the region where the company is situated.
Exceptionally, masks may be removed certain times during the day depending on the level of risk and the additional measures taken such as adapted aeration or ventilation.
Work from home
The new protocol maintains that work from home is a "recommended option" to limit the spread of the virus and notably avoid public transport during rush-hours.
When possible, work from home should also remain "a preferred solution" for employees at risk or employees living with individuals at risk.
However, the Government indicates that it is possible that Health Authorities recommend implementing more restrictive measures regarding work from home notably in areas of active circulation of the virus (i.e, currently 21 regions including the Paris area, see here). To date no such additional restrictions have been implemented.
Persons at risk (or living with persons at risk) will no longer be able to be placed under the partial unemployment scheme ("activité partielle") as from 31 August 2020, (except for individuals under a serious significant medical treatment as defined by the decree dated 29 August 2020).
The new protocol reaffirms that for these employees, and when work from home is not possible, further individual protective measures must be implemented:
- Particular attention to regular hand hygiene;
- Re-organizing of the work station (designated desk or specific protective measures);
- Surgical masks should be provided by the employer.
The new protocol insists on the necessity to regularly inform employees of the measures implemented for their health and safety.
The protection measures, and their adjustments, taken by the employer regarding employees and any individual accessing the workplace should be incorporated in internal memoranda prepared in collaboration with employee representatives and trade union representatives. These internal memoranda may be included in the Internal Regulations.
Coordination with the Health Authorities
The new sanitary protocol maintains that temperature testing at the entrance of the company/building is not recommended and it is preferable that individuals take their own temperature at home in case of fever like symptoms. More generally, the protocol encourages self-verification of COVID-19 symptoms.
However, the protocol also indicates that companies are invited to contact the Health Authorities in case of contamination of an employee. The Health Authorities will then determine if testing carried out by health professionals should be implemented on a large scale basis among employees.
"Barrier gestures" and "good practices" to adopt
The new protocol continues to insist on the importance of complying with "barrier gestures" ("gestes barrières") to limit the spread of the virus in the workplace.
In addition, it provides a reminder of recommended "good practices" in order to limit the spread of the virus in the workplace, such as:
- Preference given to individual use of offices or limiting the number of employees in one office/room/elevator and allowing for a distance of 1 meter between each individual;
- Providing an individual desk to each employee in open spaces;
- One-way circulation indicated by signage, etc.
The original protocol remains unchanged on several measures, such as notably:
- Involvement of employee representatives and trade union representatives;
- Implementation of a process to deal with persons experiencing symptoms and the persons with whom they have been in contact with and appointing a person in charge of prevention and informing staff;
- Recommendations for managing the flow of persons/employees;
- Recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting premises.
Click here to access the alert in French.