1. What options do employers have and/or what are you seeing in terms of re-opening the workplace e.g. phased returns, rotating shifts, staggered working hours, etc.?
Where possible, staff should continue to work from home (teleworking).
The occasional or periodic physical presence in the premises of teleworkers, when necessary, must be organised in such a way that it is spread out, to limit the number of employees returning to the workplace at the same time. Businesses must take the following into account:
- The maximum occupancy of open spaces in the workplace based on the estimated number of square metres per person, necessary to allow for people (for example, employees or customers) to attend simultaneously in the same space to move in a way that is respectful of the rules of physical distancing. These are a minimum of 4m² per person (1 metre around each person).
- Circulation plans must be implemented to ensure compliance with the minimal physical distance, especially in elevators; parking lots; entry and exit of the premises; specific departments that will receive visits from employees (such as IT or HR) where appointments shall be scheduled; common areas; and canteens.
- PPE shall be used as a last resort, when it is impossible to resort to a collective protection solution of a technical (e.g. physical screens, spacing of workstations) or organisational nature (e.g. staggered working hours, duplication/rotating shifts), or when the latter alone is not sufficient to protect the employee. PPE is therefore a complement to, and not a substitute for, collective protection measures. Where PPE is single-use, its constant supply and disposal must be organised.
- Draw up, in conjunction with the occupational health department, an ad hoc preventive procedure to take care of symptomatic people without delay to isolate them quickly in a dedicated room, and invite them to go home and contact their doctor.
- Temperature tests are not recommended even if possible under some conditions.
- Cleaning protocols should be implemented.
In its preventive role, businesses must:
- relay messages from the health authorities – any person presenting symptoms must be asked by their employer not to go to their place of work and to consult a doctor without delay;
- accurately assess the risks of contamination in workplaces that cannot be avoided, and implement protective measures that will limit the number of people from being in close contact with a COVID-19-positive patient; and
- collaborate with health authorities, should the business be contacted as part of the tracing process.
2. Does an employer have to give notice to employees to return to the workplace?
There is no legal notice requirement, but employees should be informed on whether or not they should return to the workplace, and the details and logistics of any return.
3. Is an employer obliged to consult with employees/representatives about the return to work process?
Yes. Though Decree No. 2020-508 of 2 May 2020 has reduced the time limits applicable when the information or consultation of the CSE relates to decisions of the employer about dealing with the economic, financial and social consequences of the spread of COVID-19:
- Mere information and consultation: eight days instead of one month.
- Information and consultation with assistance of an expert: 12 days in the case of central CSE, or 11 days otherwise, instead of two months
4. Are there any requirements or recommendations for employees to wear or employers to provide masks or other protective equipment in the workplace?
See above. PPE shall be used as a last resort, when it is impossible to resort to a collective protection solution of a technical (e.g. physical screens, spacing of workstations) or organisational nature (e.g. staggered working hours, duplication/rotating shifts), or when the latter alone is not sufficient to protect the employee.
PPE is therefore a complement to collective protection measures, not a substitute for them.
5. When can business travel resume and what are the key considerations for employers?
Business travel can resume from 11 May 2020. Employers should limit business travel to what is strictly necessary, and provide employees with all PPE necessary.
6. If schools remain closed, can working parents continue to work from home?