New ways of working for companies to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak in France

20 March 2020


In the fight against the Coronavirus, companies are faced with a new way of working. Following the announcements of the President of the French Republic on Monday 16 March, let's take a look at three existing systems.

Teleworking is mandatory for suitable job positions and strict rules apply to others

Teleworking is the prescribed rule for all job positions that allow working from home until further notice. The risk of an epidemic makes it possible for the employer to set up teleworking without employee agreement and without any particular formalism. Care should be taken to not neglect telephone meetings and videoconferences in order to limit employee isolation as much as possible.

For other jobs, the government authorises, by way of derogation, journeys between home and the office when they are essential to carry out activities that cannot be performed by way of telework. A certificate is required for such journeys and any travel undertaken without a certificate is punishable by a fine of up to 135 euros.

When telework is not possible, particular attention should be paid to distancing rules and protective measures, and systems should be adapted as much as possible (e.g. team rotation). Regular information for employees and strong corporate dialogue are essential.

Partial activity

The conditions for the implementation of partial activity, a mechanism which allows the reduction or temporary suspension of a company's activity, are simplified so that all companies whose activity are reduced because of the coronavirus epidemic and those which are subject to a closure obligation are eligible for the partial activity scheme.

Implementation of partial activity is a collective measure that may concern all or part of an establishment (production unit, department, workshop).

Concerned employees are unable to refuse to be placed in partial activity, with the exception of protected employees (trade union representatives etc.) who must obtain an agreement.

In accordance with legal rules and subject to applicable industry agreements, partial working hourly indemnity paid by employers to employees corresponds to 70% of the gross amount (approximately 84% of the net amount). This indemnity is a replacement income and is therefore not subject to social security contributions. The draft government regulations expected to be issued within the next few days state that the indemnity paid to employees would be fully reimbursed to employers up to a maximum of 4.5 SMIC (statutory minimum salary), i.e. €4,849.16.

Finally, it should be noted that the CSE (social and economic committee - employee representatives) must be consulted on the implementation of partial activity in enterprises with 50 or more employees. In order to respond to practical difficulties, enterprises will be obliged to send the minutes of the consultation of the CSE within two months following the request for partial activity.

In view of the number of requests made to date (currently 400,000 employees), it is strongly recommended that companies provide a detailed explanation of the reasons why the current health crisis is leading to a drop in activity or a halt in business, including figures.

Sick leave

If teleworking is not possible and a parent does not have a childcare solution for children under 16, the employer can request a compensated sick leave via Under no circumstances can the employer refuse this sick leave.

In addition, an employee whose company has not implemented telework and who has stayed in a high-risk area, or presents a high risk of contamination, can benefit from sick leave issued by the Regional Health Agency and be compensated by health insurance.

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