September 28, 2020

France imposes the mask in all work centers and requires companies to pay for it




The French Government has decided impose the use of the mask in the workplace, except in a few exceptions such as individual spaces, and that the companies pay for this protective equipment. All this, in a context of deep outbreaks of Covid-19.

“We have decided systematize the mask in collective closed spaces » given the risk of contagion by aerosol (particles that remain suspended in the air), the Secretary of State for Occupational Health, Laurent Pietraszewski, explained to the press on Tuesday.

That includes, among others, shared offices – even if separating plexiglass plates have been installed – meeting rooms or corridors, has indicated at the end of a videoconference chaired by the Minister of Labor, Elisabeth Borne, in which union and employer organizations participated.

In the coming days health safety work protocols will be updated which had been initially published on May 3, before the start of the de-escalation, so that the new rules apply from September 1.

Telecommuting, «a recommended practice»

Teleworking will continue to be “best practice” for, among other things, trying to avoid the massive use of public transport in big cities when the school year begins next month.

The Secretary of State emphasized that the use of a mask will not exempt the application of other basic health safety rules, especially the physical distancing, regularly washing hands, cleaning furniture and equipment, or airing work areas.

Since the end of confinement between 20 and 25% of coronavirus outbreaks identified in France have appeared in companies: of the 268 that are still open, 60 are in a professional environment.

Companies will pay for masks

The Department of Labor was clear about who will bear the financial cost of the masks that must be used during the working day: “From the moment they are mandatory, companies must provide them”, has aimed.

For now no public aid is contemplated to finance this supplementary expenditure And it is ruled out that these obligations cause a shortage of masks, since the market – unlike what happened during and immediately after the confinement – is well supplied and prices are falling.

Labor inspectors will be in charge of controlling the new protocol and, following the usual procedures -without exceptional provisions-, in the event of non-compliance, it will be those who take their findings to court. The addresses of the companies will be empowered to impose disciplinary sanctions workers who refuse to wear the mask.

Casuistry by sectors

Pietraszewski has insisted on the willingness to agree with unions and employers in the coming days to detail the particular circumstances of each sector. For example, it will be necessary to define if any derogation is contemplated in the telephone attention centers or in the radio and television studios.

Too specific pilot work will be carried out for slaughterhouses, which as in other countries have concentrated many of the COVID outbreaks that have emerged in the world of work, as suspected by the cold and humid conditions in which the work is carried out.

The Government intends reinforce recommendations on worker accommodation which are the responsibility of companies – as is often the case with seasonal workers – so that, as far as possible, individual accommodations are sought.

Employers and unions

The General Labor Confederation (CGT) has indicated in a statement that the mask should not be the only instrument of protection against epidemic riskInstead, other dimensions must be adjusted to protect employees, such as time, conditions and work organization.

The employer Medef, through the mouth of its delegate president, Patrick Martin, had requested shortly before the Executive’s announcements that they be avoided “Overly coercive general measures”. “You do not have to send a password that means that our country is going to stop because it would be fatal, especially for employment,” Martin said on the station “France Info”.

He warned that the mandatory nature of the mask runs the risk of feed the idea among workers that the epidemic is back in full swing in France, something that is not true. According to statistics updated this Monday, in France there are 4,925 people hospitalized for COVID-19, compared to the peak of almost 32,300 admitted in mid-April.

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