The Ministry of Labor has updated the National Protocol to Ensure the Health and Safety of Employees Regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic (the “National Protocol”). Additionally, the French government’s border strategy has been changed, impacting the ability of employees to travel between states.
Indeed, new measures taken on May 19, 2021, have already changed the daily life of bars, restaurants, museums and cinemas, which have been able to reopen with limited capacity, and according to a strict health protocol. In addition, changes for companies and employees as well as for entering and leaving French territory have been applicable since June 9, 2021.
A new version of the national protocol has been in force since June 9, 2021
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the French government has adopted a national protocol to limit the spread of the virus and organize the continued economic activity of French companies.
In order to allow a gradual return of employees to the office, the National Protocol was updated on June 9, 2021. Given the evolution of the health situation, this new edition is part of a cautious government approach, which will be reviewed. and refined at the end of the year. June.
Here are the essential new rules to highlight:
Employees are authorized to return to work on the premises of the company if their functions allow it. However, the employer must set a minimum number of teleworking days per week, and it should be noted that a complete return to company premises is prohibited.1
- Meetings on company premises are now permitted. However, videoconferencing must be privileged and barrier measures must be applied at all times (eg: masks, ventilation, social distancing);
- Restaurants can reopen at 50% of their capacity and under strict conditions: groups of up to six employees per table, with a distance of two meters; and
- Breaks are authorized but in compliance with barrier measures, outdoors if possible and with a limited number of 25 employees.
Health rules and physical distancing remain mandatory within companies: employers must provide masks, hydro-alcoholic gel, limit the risks of congestion, crossing, and concentration of employees and customers, etc.
In addition, employers are still subject to their general obligation to protect the health and safety of employees. Particular attention must be paid to the prevention of psychosocial risks for employees, in particular by maintaining links within the working group and preventing risks due to teleworking. Failure to comply with this obligation may lead to disputes in which companies may be required to pay damages to employees. In addition, in the event of a labor administration check, an employer may be required to pay a fine of up to € 10,000 for each employee.
New measures will have to be implemented after the publication of the future version of the National Protocol expected on June 30, 2021.
New border strategy changes ability to travel abroad
Since October 2020, only travel for compelling reasons, strictly defined by the French government, has been authorized between France and a foreign country outside the European Union area.
From June 9, 2021, the flow of travelers between France and abroad has been reopened depending on the local health situation abroad and the vaccination status of travelers.
The French government has published a map identifying the countries by “green zone”,2 « zone orange »,3 and “red zone”4 and defined specific rules updated every two weeks according to the local health situation. For example, the United States, Canada and the European Union which were in the “orange zone” on June 9, 2021, were then moved to the “green zone” on June 18, 2021.
To date, leaving French territory requires compliance with the conditions listed below:
- Travel to countries in the “green zone”: departure from France is authorized without any constraint from the French authorities.
- Travel to the countries of the “orange zone”: departure from France is conditional on the completion of the vaccination, except in the event of a compelling reason, such as a particular mission essential to the pursuit of economic activity or a medical emergency vital
- Going to the “red zone” countries: the only way to go to the destination country from France is to present a compelling reason, the list of which is more restrictive than for the “orange zone” countries. In particular, for these countries, business travel is prohibited.
NB: Travelers must also comply with the rules of the country of destination, some countries imposing mandatory PCR tests on boarding or isolation periods on arrival.
Entry into French territory is subject to the following conditions:
Travel from the “green zone” countries
France no longer needs a compelling reason. Vaccinated travelers can come to France without a screening test, provided they have a complete vaccination certificate. Unvaccinated travelers must present a negative PCR test within 72 hours upon boarding.
Travel from the countries of the “orange zone”
A negative PCR test of less than 72 hours or a negative antigen test of less than 48 hours is required upon boarding. Vaccinated travelers must also provide full proof of vaccination. Those who are not vaccinated must provide a compelling reason to enter France, present a negative PCR test of less than 72 hours or a negative antigen test of less than 48 hours upon boarding, and submit to self-isolation. from seven days to arrival.
Travelers from “red zone” countries
A compelling reason is mandatory, defined more strictly than for the countries of the “orange zone” by the French government. Travelers must present a negative PCR test less than 48 hours old, perform an antigen test on arrival and undergo a mandatory ten-day quarantine controlled by the security forces. For those who have been vaccinated, this quarantine is reduced to a seven-day self-isolation.
Travel for professional purposes, such as assignments or secondment of employees, is only authorized from countries in the “green zone”. For employees from an “orange zone” or a “red zone”, the compelling reasons are strictly enumerated by the government and do not cover the missions essential to economic activity.
Employers are therefore strongly advised to remain attentive to the changes announced by the French government and to ensure that they comply with all of these necessarily evolving measures as soon as an employee’s business trip is planned.
1 As a reminder, since November 2020, remote working has been the rule defined by the French government for all functions allowing it. Employees were allowed to return to the office one day a week for exceptional reasons, in particular to avoid any risk of isolation.
2 As of 06.22.2021: European Union, Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and Vatican, Australia, Canada, South Korea, United States, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand and Singapore.
3 As of 06.22.2021: All countries, except countries in “green zone” and “red zone”, for example: United Kingdom.
4 As of 06.22.2021: Afghanistan, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Paraguay, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Uruguay.