France is known to be a country that takes lunch seriously and gulping down a sandwich in front of the computer is generally perceived as something French people would avoid.
But from Monday, February 15th, this is officially allowed after a decree was published in the Journal Officiel.
Eating at one's workstation was banned by French labour law (Article R4228-19), which explicitly forbids “letting workers take their meal inside the work premises”.
The relaxation of this rule for businesses of more than 50 employees is temporary and aims to make it easier for those unable to work from home to eat in a safe environment, and for businesses to enforce the new and stricter Covid-19 health rules in offices.
The pandemic has revolutionised French everyday life, doing away with much-loved customs such as eating out late, post-work apéro drinks, museum-visits and other cultural activities. Now, it has come for the treasured lunch break too.
However, brief lunches and the odd sandwich have become more common in France over the years, and some French workers expressed astonishment that the law banning office meals actually existed.
Télétravail (remote working) is still the rule for those able to do so, although France revised its labour protocol in January to allow employees to come in one day a week upon agreement with their employer.
This came after reports that many employees struggled with the psychological impact of remote working.
The protocol also banned “moments of conviviality” and ordered workers to “limit the social interaction in the workplace as much as possible” – including joint coffee breaks or lunching together in communal areas.