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March 25, 2020 SPECIAL COVID-19 ISSUE

FRANCE - Report

By: Léa Ghoreychi, Adélaïde Jomier, and Nadège Owen, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Paris

In France, the government has implemented numerous measures for companies and employees due to the Covid-19 outbreak:

  • Some companies, listed by decree, have been forced to close (e.g. restaurants, theaters, gyms, etc.).
  • For companies that have not been closed down:
    • Remote working must be implemented for all jobs that permit it.
    • Work onsite must continue subject to compliance with protective (sanitary) measures against Covid-19. In this respect, employers are under a strict liability to ensure the safety of their employees. Employees are entitled to exercise their right to withdraw from their workplace in case of serious and imminent threat to their health or survival. Although the government has indicated that the Covid-19 virus does not per se justify such right to withdraw, certain employees have claimed so.
    • The Government has announced more favorable and loosened rules for companies who may be able to rely on a state-funded partial activity scheme. It has declared that the current epidemic constitutes exceptional circumstances justifying recourse to the state-funded partial activity scheme. However, companies must justify the effects of the Covid-19 epidemic on their activity. The authorities' assessment of the situation thus appears stricter than the government's initial announcements suggested. In case of partial activity, employees should receive at least 70% of their remuneration within the limit of 4.5 times the minimum salary, which amount will be compensated by the State.
    • Specific leaves have been created. Provided they cannot work remotely, non-infected employees who are at risk of developing a serious form of infection (e.g. individuals suffering from chronic respiratory distress or with a cardiovascular history, etc.), or are quarantining due to contact with an infected individual, or caring for children because of school closures, can benefit from compensated leaves off work. Employees who have contracted Covid-19 should be placed on sick leave by their physician.
  • The government is also introducing legislation [expected to be passed on 24 March] to enable it to take new employment law measures (e.g. on paid leaves, profit-sharing or partial activity) to prevent and limit business closures and their impact on jobs.

Léa Ghoreychi

Adélaïde Jomier, and Nadège Owen, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Paris