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Télétravail: Your rights and responsibilities if you work from home in France

Télétravail: Your rights and responsibilities if you work from home in France
Home-working could be here to stay for some. Photo: AFP
Strongly recommended by the government due to the health situation, working from home is rapidly becoming the norm for many - so what are your rights if you work from home in France?

During France's nationwide lockdown in March and April people either worked from home if they could or – except in the case of keyworkers – stopped working altogether.

Although lockdown has now been lifted, the government still recommends home-working – télétravail in French – as far as possible. This is particularly the case in high risk areas such as Paris and Marseille, where ministers are urging everyone to work from home if it is technically possible to do so.

 

 

The French government estimates that in the private sector, four in 10 jobs could be done remotely.

While many are still seeing tis as a temporary solution some employees are keen to make a permanent change, while employers have woken up to possible savings in rent and office costs. But if this is to become the new normal there are things you need to know about your rights and responsibilities as a télétravailleur in the private sector.

It is estimated that four in 10 jobs in the private sector could be done remotely. Photo: AFP

Who decides?

Some people have been keen to work from home for as long as possible while for others it will be their employers who are more in favour (probably as a cost-cutting measure) but this needs to be agreed in advance. It is also possible to negotiate an agreement where you work half the week from home and half the week in the office.

If you request to work from home on a long-term basis your boss has the right to refuse, but must give a reason.

Under normal French labour law if your boss asks you to work from home you can refuse and don't have to provide a reason. However at the start of the coronavirus epidemic the government published a decree that gave employers the right to order their employees to work from home.

This is under Article L1222-11 of the Labour Code about epidemics which states that bosses can order their staff to work at home if they feel there is a safety risk through being in the office. Since the official government advice remains to work from home if possible, bosses can still use this clause.

New employment codes introduced in 2018 mean that there no longer needs to be a change to the employee's contract to allow temporary days of remote working in usual circumstances such as an epidemic or a transport strike, but if become a permanent change you may request a new contract.

Conditions

You remain an employee of the company with the same rights as before, but if you switch to home-working permanently your employers must provide written conditions of your new working practices.

Among these must be a protocol for working hours and workflow regulation.

The employer and employee must also agree in advance on the time slots during which your boss is allowed to contact you at home, in order to preserve your right to a private life.

Taking your laptop to the park, while it sounds appealing, will do your back no good in the long run. Photo: AFP

Your workspace

When lockdown firs began many people were doing their jobs on a laptop on the sofa or even from their bed, but if this is going to be a long term pattern of working you will need proper equipment to do your job from home.

If your job is computer based you will need a minimum of a table and chair, unless you fancy embracing long-term back pain from hunching over a laptop all day.

Other equipment you might need depends on your job, but if you make a lot of phone calls you could reasonably ask for a telephone headset to avoid neck pain and if you remember the summer's heatwave you'll probably also want to get yourself the best fan that money can buy.

The principle is that setting up home-working should not entail any additional cost to the employee, so your employer must supply any equipment that you reasonably need. Whether that is supplied directly, or through you ordering a work-station and claiming the expense back can be agreed between you and your employer.

Allowances and expenses

Many home-workers will have noticed their electricity bills rising as they are suddenly at home all day using electricity for lights, coffee machines/kettles and powering up the computer.

Consumption of tea bags, coffee and toilet roll will probably have risen too.

Any fixed expenses such as stationary, phone calls, printer cartridges etc you can claim back from your employer on the production of receipts.

You are also entitled to ask your employer to share in the cost of utilities like electricity, internet connection and heating.

If you work in a job where you currently receive restaurant vouchers, these cannot be withdrawn if you switch to home-working.

Health and safety

If you are working at home, your residence becomes your workplace for that day, with all that implies legally. For example, if you fall down your own stairs on a day you are working from home, that could count as a workplace accident and your employer could be liable.

Employer liability can be strict in France – remember this case from last a year when a court ruled that a man who died while having sex with a stranger on a business trip was the victim of a workplace accident? Not that we're suggesting any hard-working readers of The Local would be frittering away their working hours on casual sex, but it shows how strict the rules around the workplace can be for employers. 

Collective agreements

Many companies and indeed entire professions are covered by conventions collectifs – collective agreements – thrashed out over the years between bosses and workers' representatives and some of these contain extra provisions, allowances or rights for working from home.

If your job is covered by this, your payslip will show convection collective and the name of the convention you are covered by, so it is well worth checking out what this covers before beginning negotiations with your boss.

The Medef union is currently involved in a consultation with the French Labour Ministry on home-working and whether any of the rules need to change.


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