This month: Handling the mental health effects of COVID and Telework

Published on : 02/04/2021 02 April Apr 04 2021

France is now in its third Covid 19 wave. President Macron announced on 31 March that non essential stores must close, as well as the closure of schools from 6 April 2021 for a few weeks including school holidays. 

Telework is the rule of thumb whenever possible and suited to the employee’s duties. This third wave has been referred to by the Minister of Health as “that of mental health”. This is the reason why the Ministry of Labor has allowed that employees working remotely but asking to work in the company’s premises be authorized to do so one day per week.

Employers have a role to play in the health and safety of their employees, and this extends to their psychological wellbeing. Section L.4121-1 of the French Labor code expressly states that employers must take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of employees and protect their physical and mental health.

In order to avoid exposing your company’s liability unduly, here are some tips to use as a starter checklist in dealing with the risks of burnout, depression, isolation, and other mental issues the pandemic has created or worsened: 

Do make sure that you are respecting contractual working time, even if employees are working remotely.

Don’t forget that employees have a right to disconnect from email, phones, and messages outside of their working hours

Do put in place tools to stay in touch regularly: videoconferences either one-one-one or in groups can help keep the social connection alive. However, …

Don’t create too great an invasion of the employee’s personal space by overloading them with videocalls. 

Do keep an eye out for the signs of a psychological exhaustion: depending on the individual and the job, this can take many forms:

-  Emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion
-  Disengagement
-  Increased absenteeism
-  Higher sensitivity to feedback
-  Emergence of physical symptoms
-  Decreased productivity

Do consider implementing specific training for managers to help them to learn how to manage “at distance” and to identify "distress signals".

Don’t forget to update the statutory Risk Evaluation Document (“Document Unique d’Evaluation des Risques”) to take into account any risks relating to telework and associated potential distresses. 

Don’t forget that you may orient employees towards the occupational physician or company doctor for appropriate medical attention. 

Do try to adapt and modulate the workloads among associates so as to effectively prevent overstraining certain individuals. 

Don’t hesitate to be proactive and directly address concerns or worries you might have about their wellbeing. “Are you ok?” can be enough to start an important conversation.  

Do make sure that employees are able to take off their legal and statutory paid leave and rest days. 

Do remember that under some circumstances, psychological issues can qualify as occupational illnesses and that any accident occurring at home during the time of work should be declared as a work accident (this declaration may of course be subject to express reserves as to its link with the work).

Flichy Grangé Avocats can assist you with the individual employment and administrative matters that are raised by your employee’s psychological wellbeing.  
 

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