France relaxes rule to allow workers to eat within work premises

The government has relaxed its labour code that explicitly forbids workers "to have their meals inside work premises".
By: | February 17, 2021

To curb the spread of COVID-19, a decree from the French government has made it legal to eat lunch at one’s work desk. Under the previous labour code, if an employee was caught eating at his or her desk, the company could be fined, and the employee could also be subject to disciplinary action. 

This is in line with the January 29 regulation that staff must maintain a social distance of at least one metre between people in a workplace when masks cannot be worn, including in canteens or lunch halls.  

The temporary rule applies to offices with more than 50 employees and where the layout of the cafeteria does not allow for social distancing. Employees who are unable to work from home will have to abide by these new and stricter health rules in offices.  

Prime Minister Jean Castex had previously said working from home (télétravail) is now more necessary than ever. “In all companies where it is possible, the use of télétravail will be reinforced,” he said. 

The default work arrangement in the country is to have staff working from home for all professional activities that allow it. For those who work 100% from home, they can go to their workplaces for a maximum of one day a week if required. 

A Ministry of Labour study showed that in January, only 64% of those who could work from home did so, compared to 70% last November, according to The Connexion. 

READ: Two Cents: The emergence of the hybrid workforce

France has been under a nationwide 6-pm-to-6-am curfew since mid-January, and restaurants, cafes, museums or movie theatres have been closed to contain the pandemic. 

As of February 15, more than 2.2 million of France’s 67-million population have received their first vaccine injection and about 650,000 have been fully vaccinated, according to CNN.