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Factsheet for measure FR-2020-11/473 Updated – measures in France

New telework rules: mandatory application, telework allowance and favourable tax treatment

Télétravail

Country France , applies nationwide
Time period Open ended, started on 14 March 2020
Context COVID-19
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Protection of workers, adaptation of workplace
– Teleworking arrangements, remote working
Author Frédéric Turlan (IRshare) and Eurofound
Measure added 10 April 2020 (updated 20 January 2022)

Background information

Following the passage to stage 3 of the pandemic, teleworking becomes imperative for all positions that allow it. Teleworking is a right provided for in Article L. 1222-9 of the Labour Code, resulting from the Order of 22 September 2017, and must be favoured in phase 3 of the epidemic. An employee can therefore ask his employer to benefit from telework until further notice. The employer may refuse, but reasons must be given for the refusal.

Content of measure

Since the passage to stage 3 of the epidemic, the implementation of telework must be imperative as soon as the workstation allows it. Telework can be implemented when the workstation layout is made necessary to allow the continuity of the company's activity and to guarantee the protection of employees.

Article L. 1222-11 of the Labour Code mentions the risk of an epidemic as a possible justification for the use of telework without the employee's agreement. The implementation of telework in this context does not require any particular formalism.

In a circular, the ministry of Labour estimate the employee must receive an allowance intended to reimburse the employee for the costs arising from telework: 'In the context of the current health crisis – since telework is carried out, in the majority of cases, over the entire actual working time and is made necessary to allow the continuity of the company's activity, to guarantee the protection of employees and for reasons of public health – it should be considered that the employer is obliged to pay his employee a telework allowance, intended to reimburse the employee for the costs arising from telework'. Indeed, the employer has an obligation to bear the professional expenses. This obligation is provided for without restriction by the case-law, which is of general application and must cover teleworkers.

'However, adds the ministry of Labour, in view of the difficulty of identifying and circumscribing the expenses relating to the professional activity and those relating to personal life, it is in the employer's interest to favour a lump sum which will simplify its management'.

If the allowance paid by the employer is a lump sum, it will then be deemed to be used in accordance with its purpose and will be exempt from social security contributions up to an overall limit of €10/month for an employee who teleworks one day per week. This exempt lump-sum allowance increases to €20/month for an employee teleworking two days a week, €30/month for 3 days a week, etc.

Updates

The following updates to this measure have been made after it came into effect.

30 December 2021

According to the new National health protocol, telework is still not compulsory but in the circumstances of high circulation of the virus and the appearance of the Omicron variant, employers shall set a minimum number of three days of telework per week, starting on 3 January 2022 and for a period of three weeks, for those positions that allow it. Where the organisation of work and the situation of the employees allow, this number may be increased to four days per week.

Employers shall set the applicable rules in the framework of local social dialogue, ensuring that links within the work group are maintained and that risks linked to the isolation of teleworking employees are prevented. In other words, telework is not compulsory but the Ministry of Labour has warned that Labour inspectorate could control and fine companies if they do not enough efforts to respect their duty to protect their employees.

01 September 2021

After being imposed during much of the health crisis, telework is becoming an option for employers. They no longer have to set a minimum number of days teleworked per week for those jobs that allow it. This change, applicable from 1 September 2021, is reflected in the latest update of the National health protocol. This update also provides some clarification on the implementation of the obligation to present a health pass for certain employees.

14 June 2021

According to a survey conducted online from 24 February to 24 April 2021 among 2,864 respondents by the network of national and regional agencies for the improvement of working conditions (Anact-Aract), telework is becoming established in the long term with a "hybrid" mode of work in conditions that have improved since the beginning of the crisis COVID-19 (see source section). In 2021, as in 2020, employees want to maintain a high level of teleworking: more than three days a week for 36% of respondents, and one or two days for 56%. In addition, 72% believe they have a suitable hardware environment (67% in 2020), 95% have suitable digital tools (87% in 2020), but only 20% say that the company will cover the additional costs of teleworking. For 37% of respondents (17% in 2020), working relationships have become worse with telework. 63% of them also feel that they "work more" (67% for managers), compared to 48% in 2020. 64% of respondents say they are 'over-connected', including those who were teleworking before the crisis began. 50% (35% in 2020) feel "tired" and 40% say they suffer from "isolation". And 39% are apprehensive about returning to the workplace.

25 March 2021

In an instruction dated 25 March, the Ministry of Labour once again mobilised the labour inspectorate to encourage companies to use telework for all suitable jobs. It recalls the need for companies to set up action plans, while specifying that there are no particular formalities for their preparation. It organises the monitoring of the effectiveness of these plans and stipulates that companies that do not draw up a plan may be given formal notice by the Labour inspectorate in the event of danger to employees.

18 March 2021

Since 18 March 2021, as part of the reinforcement of sanitary measures, the national protocol to ensure the health and safety of employees in companies faced with the COVID-19 epidemic has been updated. Employers in the 16 departments subject to new restrictions are asked to draw up action plans to reduce as far as possible the time spent on site by employees who can telework. This obligation to draw up an action plan for teleworking has been extended to the whole of France, from 3 April 2021, the date of the third containment period.

03 February 2021

An instruction from the Ministry of Labour (DGT) of 3 February 2021 provides for the multiplication and targeting of measures to support employers in the implementation of telework. It also plans to increase the intensity of the controls carried out, particularly in companies and sectors where the practice of telework is in retreat.

'The choice not to reinstate a general lockdown imposes a very strict respect of the general principles of prevention, of the recommendations of the health protocol in companies and in particular, when the situation requires it, a very firm application of the rules of telework'. This is the position stated by the Directorate General of Labour (DGT), which intends to reinforce the intervention of the labour inspectorate to enforce compliance with measures to combat COVID-19 and, in particular, to impose the use of telework wherever it can be implemented.

Use of measure

In 2017, about 3% of employees were teleworking at least once a week. According to an INSEE economic report published on 26 March 2020, i.e. ten days after the start of confinement, approximately one third of employees are working at their usual place of work, one third are teleworking and the last third are on short-time working. On 15 March, in a press release, the Ministry of Labour estimates that close to 8 million jobs (or more than four out of ten jobs) are compatible with telework in the private sector.

According to the DARES-ACEMO survey published on 29 September 2021, telework, especially full-week telework, is stabilising at a low level: in August, only 13% of employees teleworked every day of the week (i.e. 3% of all employees as in July, after 4% in June, 8% in May and 10% in April). As of 31 August, 38% of employees work in an organisation where teleworking is not available (as on 31 July). This proportion is particularly high in the smallest companies and decreases sharply with company size. 19% of employees work in a company that requires at least one day of telework per week (- 3 points compared to July). These companies are more likely to be large. When a minimum number of days of telework is required, it is most often a minimum of two days of telework per week. At the beginning of September, 30% of the employees work in a company that intends in the next few months to establish a new rule or to change the existing rule on telework.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Employees in standard employment
Does not apply to businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Company / Companies
No special funding required

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Informed Informed
Form Not applicable Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • No involvement
  • Main level of involvement: Unknown

Involvement

Social partners were not consulted for the first lockdown, but were regularly consulted for each update of the National protocol to ensure the health and safety of employees in the workplace in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic. The protocol had relaxed the use of telework during the summer, before reinforcing employers' obligation since the launch of the third lockdown, in March for some departments and in April for the whole territory.

Views and reactions

Social partners have welcomed the need to use telework as much as possible. But some employers' organisations were against the obligation to set up an action plan since 18 March 2021. For instance, on 23 March, the CPME (the employers' organisation representing mainly SMEs, denounced the new version of the health protocol in companies, which requires companies in lockdown zones to draw up an "action plan" to promote teleworking. 'No doubt one more piece of paperwork will be an effective barrier against the epidemic,' CPME reacted wryly in a statement. The employers' organisation, according to which 'administrative creativity has no limits', adds that 'company directors running a small or medium-sized business will appreciate that, if they are not offered a vaccination date, a new obligation is imposed on them'. With regard to telework, 'a form of lassitude prevails and it is becoming more and more difficult for employers to impose it. Many employees say they suffer from isolation and want to return to the company's premises', the CPME also states.

Trade unions agreed to increase the number of employees in telework, but denounce regularly the lack of financial support of employer and stress the difficult working conditions for some employees living is small accommodations.

Update 23 November 2021 The Medef is opposed to making telework compulsory, said its president Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux on 23 November. "It is necessary to let the social dialogue of proximity take place," he said, adding that "there are many companies that have signed agreements. "He added that the decision taken by Belgium in the face of the resurgence of the epidemic to make teleworking compulsory four days out of five wherever possible "is a mistake". He said that telework "sometimes creates a feeling of incomprehension and frustration for those who cannot telework". "I see a lot of industrial companies asking their administrative staff not to telework to create a sense of equality between those who are stationed on the line or elsewhere and those who can telework", he explained.

Sources

  • 16 April 2020: Coronavirus : Questions/réponses pour les entreprises et les salariés (travail-emploi.gouv.fr)
  • 03 February 2021: Direction Général du Travail. Instruction DGT du 3 février relative à l’intervention de l’inspection du travail dans le cadre des mesures sanitaires de lutte contre la Covid-19
  • 03 February 2021: Instruction DGT du 3 février relative à l’intervention de l’inspection du travail dans le cadre des mesures sanitaires de lutte contre la Covid-19
  • 23 March 2021: CMPE, Pour faire barrage à l’épidémie, le gouvernement envisage une nouvelle paperasse, Press release (www.cpme.fr)
  • 25 March 2021: Instruction DGT du 25 mars 2021 relative aux orientations et aux modalités d'intervention du système d'inspection du travail (SIT) dans le cadre des mesures renforcées de lutte contre la COVID-19.
  • 25 March 2021: Télétravail en période de COVID-19 (travail-emploi.gouv.fr)
  • 14 June 2021: ANACT (2021) : « Télétravail de crise en 2021 : quelles évolutions ? Quels impacts ? (www.anact.fr)
  • 10 September 2021: Protocole national pour assurer la santé et la sécurité des salariés en entreprise face à l’épidémie de Covid-19 (travail-emploi.gouv.fr)
  • 29 September 2021: Activité et conditions d’emploi de la main-d’œuvre pendant la crise sanitaire Covid-19 (dares.travail-emploi.gouv.fr)
  • 30 December 2021: Protocole national pour assurer la santé et la sécurité des salariés en entreprise face à l’épidémie de COVID-19 (travail-emploi.gouv.fr)

Citation

Eurofound (2020), New telework rules: mandatory application, telework allowance and favourable tax treatment, measure FR-2020-11/473 (measures in France), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/FR-2020-11_473.html

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