Health protocol: masks in the workplace and vulnerable employees

Published on : 02/10/2020 02 October Oct 10 2020

Following a health protocol published by the Ministry of Labour, the wearing of masks for the general public is made "systematic in closed and shared spaces within companies (meeting rooms, open space, corridors, changing rooms, shared offices ...)" since September 1, 2020.

In the case of individual offices, the mask does not have to be worn if there is only one person present, the government protocol states.

In order to cut short any debate about the enforceability and legally binding nature of the sanitary protocol, it is recommended to integrate the rules relating to masks in the company handbook or in a service note sent to all employees. This way, the rules are clearly communicated, and employers are better covered in regards to their health and safety obligations as an employer.

The masks for the general public, preferably reusable, covering the nose and mouth, meet the specifications of the Afnor S76-001 standard or, for imported masks, the specifications of similar standardization bodies.

If an employee refuses to wear the mask, this will constitute an act of misconduct that can be the object of disciplinary measures by the employer. The employer will be able to decide which level of sanction is appropriate for the situation. This reinforces the benefits of including the mask-wearing obligation in the Company Handbook, as it relates to the employer’s disciplinary prerogatives.

In addition, regarding businesses usually operating in “flex-office”, the government protocol advises to assign a fixed desk space to employees in order to avoid free placement at a workstation that could be an infection risk.

Vulnerable workers

The new rules of access to Short Time Work (“Activité Partielle”) for vulnerable people and their relatives are set by decree of August 29, 2020, and entered into force on September 1, 2020. The text distinguishes between two scenarios.

Firstly, employees who present "a risk of developing a serious form of infection with the Sars CoV-2 virus, making it impossible for them to continue working".

For them, the Short-Time Work scheme is maintained, subject to presentation to the employer of a medical certificate. Several precise criteria are defined, allowing the doctor to determine the risk incurred by the patient: for example, "to be suffering from cancer under treatment" or "from congenital or acquired immunodeficiency", or to be over 65 years of age.

Second, employees sharing the home of a vulnerable person: for them, access to the Short Time Work scheme ended on August 31, 2020.

They will therefore have to return to work as before the pandemic. However, the measure remains in force in the French departments where the health emergency is still currently in effect at the time of writing, i.e. French Guyana and Mayotte.


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