New Ways of Working

Explore and keep track of key legal and compliance considerations for multinational employers as new ways of working become increasingly embedded as the pandemic begins to recede. Learn more about the response taken in specific countries or build your own report to compare approaches taken around the world.

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01. Has the government introduced any laws and/or issued guidelines around remote-working arrangements? If so, what categories of worker do the laws and/or guidelines apply to – do they extend to “gig” workers and other independent contractors?

01. Has the government introduced any laws and/or issued guidelines around remote-working arrangements? If so, what categories of worker do the laws and/or guidelines apply to – do they extend to “gig” workers and other independent contractors?

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France

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The first French law on teleworking was adopted on 22 March 2012. It was subsequently modified by an ordinance dated 22 September 2017. Today, three articles of the labour code cover the implementation and the functioning of teleworking (articles L. 1222-9 to L. 1222-11). In addition, two national collective agreements were concluded between employers' representatives and trade unions in 2005[1] and 2020.[2]

The definitions of teleworking given by article L. 1222-9 and by the agreement of 19 July 2005 provide that the rules on teleworking only apply to employees with an employment contract. These rules do not apply to self-employed workers.


[1] National collective agreement on Teleworking – July 19, 2005

[2] National collective agreement for a successful implementation of teleworking – November 26, 2020

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United Kingdom

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The UK has, for some years now, had in place a formal system by which certain employees can request their employers to implement flexible-working arrangements: see UK government guidance here.

A request can only be made by an employee with 26 weeks’ continuous service (which, in general, means an unbroken period of service with the employer or a related entity), and can only be made once a year. The right does not extend to non-employee workers.

There is a statutory format for making a formal request. This mechanism has not changed or been updated in response to the pandemic but continues to apply as it did previously. The rules differ slightly in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

In addition to the formal, statutory flexible-work request process, many employers have been implementing more informal flexible work policies and arrangements. There is no bar on employers doing so outside the formal statutory mechanism, but any informal arrangements do not remove an employee’s separate right under the legislation to make a formal request. 

Employers must not unlawfully discriminate against their employees and workers when handling remote-working requests (whether they are formal or informal requests) or when making remote-working arrangements: see UK government guidance here and here (for the grounds upon which discrimination is unlawful). There is also a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled workers: see here.  Where remote-working requests or arrangements are not handled reasonably and consistently, this could also ultimately trigger an “ordinary” unfair dismissal claim.

In response to the increased interest in homeworking during the pandemic, some UK government agencies and quasi-government agencies have issued guidance relevant to their particular fields of interest.

From 13 December 2021, office workers in England able to work from home should do so, unless necessary to attend the workplace physically. Different government guidance applies to different sectors: see here. Different guidelines apply in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), a quasi-governmental service that issues guidance relating to workplace matters, has published some recommendations for successfully implementing homeworking: see here. This guidance is not legally binding but is often relied upon by employers, unions, employees and other stakeholders.

ACAS has also published guidance on dealing with Covid-19 in the workplace: see here.

In the UK, businesses have a common law obligation to take reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of employees and other types of workers, including those based at home. Under the UK’s health & safety legislation, the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, employers also have specific legislative duties concerning employees (including home-based employees).

Under the UK’s health and safety legislation, the relevant watchdog – the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) – has also issued some guidance on how to safely implement homeworking arrangements: see here. Specific HSE guidance on keeping workplaces safe during the pandemic in light of current restrictions can be found here.

There are separate regulations that deal specifically with employees who are computer users (and which regulate the usage of computers, screens, and relevant furniture such as desks/chairs), and these again also apply to home-based workers. More guidance can be found from the HSE here.

Last updated on 13/01/2022

02. Outline the key data protection risks associated with remote working in your jurisdiction.

02. Outline the key data protection risks associated with remote working in your jurisdiction.

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France

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Employers must ensure the protection of their company’s data but also of employees’ data.

According to article L. 1222-10 of the French labour code, the employer must inform the teleworking employee of the company's rules regarding data protection and any restrictions on the use of computer equipment or tools. Once informed, the employee must respect these rules.

The collective national agreement of 26 November 2020, provides more details in article 3.1.4. It is the employer's responsibility to take necessary measures to protect the personal data of a teleworking employee and the data of anyone else the employee processes during their activity, in compliance with the GDPR of 27 April 2016 and the rulings of the National Commission for Technology and Civil Liberties (the CNIL).

The CNIL said in its 12 November 2020 Q&A on teleworking that employers are responsible for the security of their company's personal data, including when they are stored on terminals over which they do not have physical or legal control (eg, employee's personal computer) but whose use they have authorised to access the company's IT resources.

The National Agreement of 26 November 2020 recommends three practices:

  • the establishment of minimum instructions to be respected in teleworking, and the communication of this document to all employees;
  • providing employees with a list of communication and collaborative work tools appropriate for teleworking, which guarantee the confidentiality of discussions and shared data; and
  • the possibility of setting up protocols that guarantee confidentiality and authentication of the recipient server for all communications.
Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United Kingdom

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The key data protection risk associated with home working is data security.

In response to this, the UK’s data protection regulator – the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – has issued guidance on the protection of personal data when working from home, using bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and working remotely (see: here).

The specific issues addressed include implementing appropriate workplace policies, IT security (including cloud-based storage security), the risk of theft and confidentiality.

Employers should update data protection policies to take account of remote working, in light of the ICO’s recommendations, and should also consider any data protection issues that may arise from an employee moving to work outside of the UK.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

03. What are the limits on employer monitoring of worker activity in the context of a remote-working arrangement and what other factors should employers bear in mind when monitoring worker activity remotely?

03. What are the limits on employer monitoring of worker activity in the context of a remote-working arrangement and what other factors should employers bear in mind when monitoring worker activity remotely?

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France

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The rules for monitoring employees do not differ between teleworkers and office workers. Thus, like any employee, teleworkers must be informed in advance of the methods and techniques used to monitor his or her activity (article L. 1222-3 of the labour code).

The implementation of a device allowing the control of the employee's working time must be justified by the nature of the task to be performed and proportionate to the purpose (National Agreement of 26 November 2020).

The CNIL said in a Q/A on 12 November 2020 that the devices used to monitor employees’ activity must not be aimed at trapping employees and cannot lead to permanent surveillance of employees. Thus, audio or video devices, permanent screen-sharing or keyloggers must not be implemented.

If the employer exercises excessive surveillance on his employee, it may receive a financial penalty.

Finally, the CNIL advises employers to prioritise monitoring the completion of missions by setting objectives rather than monitoring the working time or the daily activity of employees.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United Kingdom

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Monitoring worker activity generally (whether remote-working or non-remote working) is possible but must be handled with caution and appropriate safeguards. As a general rule, employers are entitled to monitor worker activity to some extent, but they must undertake an impact assessment before doing so (which is an internal assessment of the impact of the proposed monitoring on data privacy), tell workers in advance about the monitoring and only monitor workers to the minimum extent reasonably feasible to achieve the employer’s goals.

The monitoring must be necessary, justified and proportionate. In other words, any monitoring must have a legal basis under GDPR for processing employee personal data in that manner (the legal basis may vary depending on the specific purpose of the monitoring), and the employer must also be able to demonstrate that: (a) the monitoring in question is a necessary and proportionate action to achieve a legitimate aim; and (b) that there is no less intrusive alternative way of achieving that purpose. There are also separate obligations in relation to data security and retention.

The more intrusive and extensive the monitoring, the greater the risk that employer monitoring may breach the UK’s data protection legislation, the Data Protection Act 2018 (and the UK’s implementation of the EU’s GDPR).

The ICO has previously published extensive guidance on how employers should implement a monitoring system. See here from page 58. This guidance was published before the pandemic, but is equally applicable. Recently, the ICO has also published specific guidance on monitoring employees using surveillance cameras, to check for compliance with pandemic health & safety obligations: see here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

04. Are employers required to provide work equipment (for example, computers and other digital devices) or to pay for or reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working (for example, internet and electricity costs)?

04. Are employers required to provide work equipment (for example, computers and other digital devices) or to pay for or reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working (for example, internet and electricity costs)?

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France

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French law has no provision for this.

It is, therefore, necessary to refer to the two national agreements of 2005 and 2020. These agreements stipulate that the costs incurred by the employee in the performance of his or her employment contract are borne by the employer. This obligation also applies to teleworkers. However, the national agreement of 2020 sets a few conditions for this coverage: the prior validation of the employer, the expense must be incurred for the needs of the professional activity of the employee and in the interests of the company.

The organisation responsible for collecting social security contributions (URSSAF) has issued a list of expenses that must be covered by the employer. These costs include ink cartridges, paper, telephone and internet subscriptions, electricity, heating, a proportion of rent in certain cases (see below) and home insurance.

The terms and conditions for covering business expenses (maximum amount, the procedure to follow, etc.) may be defined unilaterally by the employer, by mutual agreement between the employee and the employer, or by a collective agreement between the employer and the company's unions. Article 3.1.5 of the national agreement of 2020 and the Ministry of Labour recommend doing everything possible to reach an agreement between the employer and the unions.

If teleworking becomes permanent and the employee no longer has an office on the company's premises, the employer must pay a home occupation allowance.[3]

As for the use of the employee's personal equipment, the principle is that the employer must provide the employee with a computer for teleworking. However, if the employee agrees, they can use their personal equipment (article 7 of the national agreement of 19 July 2005).


[3] Cass. Soc, 14 septembre 2016, n°14-21.893

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United Kingdom

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Unless provided for in an employment contract, in general there is no mandatory obligation on an employer to provide particular work equipment (save as part of its ongoing health and safety obligations, or in the context of making an adjustment for an employee with a disability), to pay a working-from-home allowance or to reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working.

Employees who have no choice but to work from home (including because of the pandemic) can claim tax relief on some utility expenses: see here for more guidance from HMRC (the UK’s tax authority). Similarly, an employee may be able to claim some tax relief for smaller items of equipment acquired by the employee for home working: see here.

Employees using work-supplied office equipment solely for work purposes (ie, not equipment owned by the employee, such as a work laptop) do not normally incur any tax liability in respect of the equipment: see here. There may be a charge if the employee is given or acquires the property from the employer: see here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

05. What potential issues and risks arise for employers in the context of cross-border remote-working arrangements?

05. What potential issues and risks arise for employers in the context of cross-border remote-working arrangements?

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France

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Cross-border remote working can accentuate some of the problems caused by teleworking or create new ones.

Among the existing problems, the loss of social ties is accentuated if the teleworker decides to work from another country. Indeed, the employee abroad will never physically see his colleagues, which will create a distance between the employee working from abroad and other employees.

Similarly, employers must ensure the protection of the health and safety of workers (article L. 4121-1 labour code). This is a difficult obligation to meet in teleworking, especially because employers do not have access to remote employees’ workplaces. It is even more difficult if the employee works from another country because the sanitary, electrical and other standards are different and potentially less protective than French rules.

As for social security law, in principle, the employee depends on the social security system of the country where they work. The employee can only continue to benefit from the French social security system if they are in a secondment situation. Moreover, this is only a temporary solution because the secondment implies a temporary mission. The employer will therefore have to register the employee with the social security system of the country where they are working, which will cause problems in terms of social contributions.

Another question that may arise is whether an employer should accept a work stoppage prescribed by a foreign doctor.

Finally, another problem that may arise is the employee's right to disconnect. Indeed, the employer and the employee must agree on a time slot during which the employee can not be contacted to respect his private life as much as possible.[4] It can be difficult to establish a time slot that suits both the employee and the employer in case of major time zone discrepancies.


[4] National agreement of November 26, 2020

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United Kingdom

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Employees working remotely outside the UK may create expensive tax liabilities for themselves and their employers. It’s important to be aware of these before any long-term decisions are made.

The foreign country in which the employee is working may seek to tax some or all of that employee’s income from the employment. This is based either on the fact that a substantial number of days have been worked in that other country or in some cases on the basis that the employee has become a tax resident there under local law. Further, social security liability may accrue (which is generally assessed separately from income tax).

The main concerns for the employer will be whether there is an obligation to operate local payroll withholding and whether local social security rules add significantly to the wage bill. The rules vary widely between countries and, unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” approach to managing this issue across multiple jurisdictions.

Employers will also need to consider the possibility that a UK employee working abroad may inadvertently create a “permanent establishment” of the UK employer in the other country, which in turn can expose part of the profits of the UK employer to corporate taxes in that other country. What constitutes a “permanent establishment” for corporate tax purposes in another country depends on the specific tax laws of that other country.

In practice, at a high level, most countries adopt a standard definition of a “permanent establishment”, which is derived from the OECD’s Model Tax Convention (being: (1) a fixed place of business in a country; or (2) a dependent agent, such as an employee, who acts on behalf of an employer and has, and habitually exercises, authority to conclude contracts in the name of the employer entity). This always needs to be checked on a case-by-case basis for the relevant countries involved. More information on the OECD convention can be found here.

Last updated on 25/11/2021

06. Do employers have any scope to reduce the salaries and/or benefits of employees who work remotely?

06. Do employers have any scope to reduce the salaries and/or benefits of employees who work remotely?

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France

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Teleworkers have the same rights as employees who work from a company's premises (article L. 1222-9 III of the Labor Code).

Employers cannot modify employees’ remuneration without obtaining agreement.[5] This rule also applies to teleworkers.

In some countries such as the United States, employers can adjust the remuneration of teleworking employees to the cost of living in the employee's place of residence. This practice is not prohibited in France but the employer must be careful in doing so as it could constitute discrimination based on the place of residence, which is prohibited by the labour code[6]if it is not justified by objective elements. 

However, employers can withdraw a few benefits from teleworking employees. Indeed, even if the Ministry of Labor says in a Q&A that the telecommuting employee must receive lunch vouchers like other employees, some jurisdictions believe that the employer can stop paying these vouchers to teleworkers because they are not in a comparable situation to employees who work from a company's premises.[7]

As for transportation costs, the employer must cover half of the cost of the transportation pass used to travel to the office and to return home from the office (article L. 3261-2 of the labour code). If the employee does not have to travel to work during the month, the employer does not have to pay transportation costs.


[5] Cass. Soc, 18 oct. 2006, n°05-41.644

[6] Article L. 1132-1 Labour code

[7]TJ Nanterre, 10 mars 2021, n° 20/09616

 

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United Kingdom

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No, unless they implement the reductions formally with the agreement of the employee or (if relevant) the union.

Any unilateral reduction of salary or benefits by an employer without the consent of an employee can be challenged by way of a breach of contract claim, an unlawful deduction of wages claim, or a claim of constructive dismissal on the part of an employee.

However, it is possible that such a reduction could be agreed between the parties as part of an agreement, for example, to permit the employee to work remotely on a permanent basis.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

08. Can employers require or mandate that their workers receive a covid-19 vaccination? If so, what options does an employer have in the event an employee refuses to receive a covid-19 vaccination?

08. Can employers require or mandate that their workers receive a covid-19 vaccination? If so, what options does an employer have in the event an employee refuses to receive a covid-19 vaccination?

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France

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Employers can require that their employees are vaccinated only if the vaccination is made mandatory by the French Public Health Code.

In France, vaccination against covid-19 has not been made mandatory (except for health professionals). Therefore, French employers cannot force their employees to be vaccinated. However, they can recommend it to their employees without forcing them (please note that due to the Law of 5 August 2021, employees are entitled to leave to attend covid-19 vaccination appointments).

Please note that a law was passed by Parliament on 5 August 2021 and states:

  1. To make access to certain places, establishments or events conditional upon the presentation of either a negative PCR test, or proof of vaccination status concerning covid-19, or a certificate of recovery following covid-19 infection.

This would only cover the following activities:

  • recreational activities;
  • bars and restaurants (except company restaurants), including terraces;
  • department stores and shopping centres by decision of the Prefect of the district in the event of risks of contamination under conditions guaranteeing access to essential shops and transport;
  • seminars and trade fairs;
  • public transport (trains, buses, planes) for long journeys; and
  • hospitals, homes for the elderly and retirement homes for companions, visitors and patients receiving care (except in medical emergencies).

In those specific cases, from 30 August 2021, an employer undertaking the above activities may ask their employees to present one of these documents, including proof of vaccination status. If an employee is unable to present such documents and chose, in agreement with their employer, to not use paid holidays, the employer can suspend the employee’s contract, on the same day. This suspension, which can lead to an interruption of salary, ends as soon as the employee produces the required proof.

If the suspension goes beyond three working days, the employer shall invite the employee to a meeting to attempt to rectify the situation, including the possibility of temporarily reassigning the employee to another position within the company not subject to this obligation.

  1. Mandatory vaccination for health professionals, including those working in an occupational health service according to article L.4622-1 of the labour code.

The health professionals listed in article 12 of the law of 5 August 2021 (doctors, nurses, doctors working in occupational health services, osteopaths etc) must be vaccinated as of 9 August 2021, unless there is a medical contraindication or a certificate of recovery can be presented.

Please note that the law provides for a transition period as follows:

  • up to and including 14 September, the staff concerned may present a negative test  that is less than 72 hours old (RT-PCR screening test, antigen test or self-test carried out under the supervision of a health professional) if they are not vaccinated;
  • between 15 September and 15 October inclusive, when an employee has received the first dose of vaccine, he or she may continue to work provided that he or she can present a negative test result; and
  • from 16 October 2021, they must present proof of the complete vaccination schedule.

This obligation does not apply to people who perform occasional tasks. The Ministry of Labour defines “occasional tasks” as a very brief and non-recurring intervention that is not linked to the normal and permanent activity of the company. Workers who carry out these tasks are not integrated into the workgroup and their activity is not public-facing.

This may include, for example, the intervention of a delivery company or an urgent repair.

On the other hand, the following are not occasional tasks: carrying out heavy work in a company (eg, renovation of a building) or cleaning services, because of their recurrent nature.

When carrying out an occasional task, the workers concerned must ensure that they comply with social distancing rules.

Employees who have not presented one of these documents can no longer work. Thus, when an employer finds that an employee can no longer carry out their work, the employee must be informed without delay of the consequences of this prohibition, as well as the means to rectify the situation. A dialogue between the employee and employer to discuss ways of rectifying this situation is encouraged.  An employee who is prohibited from working may, with the employer's agreement, use days of rest or paid leave. Otherwise, their employment contract will be suspended.

The suspension of the contract, which leads to the interruption of salary, ends as soon as the employee fulfils the conditions necessary to continue working.

When the employer or the regional health agency finds that a health professional has not been able to carry out their role for more than 30 days, it informs the national council of the order to which they belong.

Please note that, according to the law of 5 August 2021, the employer must inform the new works council (CSE) of measures taken to implement any obligations to verify the vaccination of health professionals or the health passes of employees who come under the aforementioned sectors.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United Kingdom

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In almost all cases, no, an employer could not issue such a requirement or mandate. However, this answer needs to be read in conjunction with the answer to question 9, below.

Absent specific legislation enabling them to do so, employers who attempt to force their staff to be vaccinated may face potential constructive dismissal claims, data protection issues, and discrimination allegations.

At the time of publication this issue remains a highly controversial one, producing significant public debate, and the legal position may change quickly.

Specific legislation dealing with this issue is very limited. In the care homes sector, regulations were made requiring staff to be vaccinated, with effect from 11 November 2021. There are limited exemptions, including on medical grounds and for emergencies. The government is exploring whether to extend this to all health and social care workers with face-to-face contact with patients and service users, unless they are exempt. On current proposals, this would be effective from 1 April 2022, but it is not yet binding law and faces substantial opposition.

The Government has stated that it has no current intention of making Covid-19 vaccination mandatory more generally, but this position needs to be monitored.

Without specific legislation, the general legal position in the UK is that an employer has a legal right to issue “lawful and reasonable” instructions to employees, which they are required to comply with. Although the position has not yet been tested before the UK’s courts and tribunals, it is unlikely that a generic requirement or mandate for employees to be vaccinated would meet this test.

There may be a case for making vaccines mandatory for specific workers undertaking specific activity in certain health-care-related roles; however, again in the absence of legislation the issue is not so much whether the employer can mandate vaccination as opposed to what steps the employer is entitled to take if an employee is not vaccinated. Even if a case could be made for requiring staff to be vaccinated, an employer would need to carefully consider issues relating to data protection and discrimination.

Finally, ACAS has issued recent guidance on supporting staff through the vaccination process: see here.

Last updated on 13/01/2022

09. What are the risks to an employer making entry to the workplace conditional on an individual worker having received a covid-19 vaccination?

09. What are the risks to an employer making entry to the workplace conditional on an individual worker having received a covid-19 vaccination?

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France

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For employees for whom vaccination is not mandatory, employers cannot make entry to the workplace conditional on vaccination, nor can they threaten to dismiss the employee if they have not had the vaccine.

If an employer makes the return to the company premises conditional on vaccination, they are violating the employees’ privacy and medical confidentiality, and employees may freely refuse it. In case of dismissal, it could be judged null and void since it may violate the employee's privacy and medical secrecy.

On the other hand, for employees working in the above-mentioned establishments (bars, restaurants, department stores, shopping centres etc.), the employer may make the return of the employee to work conditional on the presentation of a health pass (either a negative PCR test, or proof of vaccination status concerning covid-19, or a certificate of recovery following a covid-19 contamination).

Finally, for health professionals, there will be no risk for the employer. The employer will be able to condition the return to the premises on proof of vaccination status.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United Kingdom

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As indicated above in response to question 8, the position has not yet been tested before the UK’s courts and tribunals and remains the subject of vigorous public debate.

Many commentators have highlighted the potential risks of unfair dismissal and discrimination claims by employees against employers, as well as data privacy issues, if employers make entry to a workplace subject to vaccination. These issues are discussed below.

Insisting on vaccination as a requirement to return to a physical work location may lead to the following employment law risks:

  • if an employee believes the requirement is an unreasonable demand, it can trigger them bringing a “constructive” unfair dismissal claim if they refuse to comply with it and resign in protest, or an “ordinary” unfair dismissal claim if they refuse and are dismissed. As there has been no judicial consideration of this issue, we do not currently know in what circumstances such a requirement would be deemed unreasonable; and
  • if the requirement is a blanket requirement without exceptions, it can give rise to potential discrimination claims, the most obvious of which are as follows:
    • if the employer does not make reasonable adjustments for staff with health issues who cannot be vaccinated, it could trigger a potential disability discrimination claim;
       
    • if a staff member cannot comply with the requirement because of a religious or similar belief, it may give rise to an indirect discrimination claim for this reason; and
       
    • similarly, a blanket requirement could indirectly discriminate against younger staff as, at the time of writing, not all over 18s will have been offered both vaccinations. In this context, it should be kept in mind that the general position is that the UK’s age discrimination legislation does not just protect older workers or workers over a particular age (such as workers aged at least 40) but can extend to all age groups. The particular issue with younger staff and vaccines should improve by the end of September 2021 when the government has said that all adults will have been offered both doses. Employers can consider making adjustments to the policy (such as allowing regular testing instead of double vaccinations).

Assuming there is no specific legislation enabling an employer to do this, the risks of making entry to the workplace conditional on individual vaccination may be mitigated somewhat if:

  • there is a specific and strong justification for the requirement, rather than just a generic desire on the part of the employer, that other COVID-safe working practices cannot achieve. This justification should be supported by the outcome of a properly considered risk assessment;
  • steps are taken to mitigate the impact on employees who cannot, for health reasons, comply with the requirement; and
  • there is an alternative working arrangement available to those who do not, or cannot, comply with the requirement (such as continuing to work from home).

Where employers can objectively justify restricting access on the above basis, the risk of such a restriction being successfully challenged by an employee will be reduced. However, it must be emphasised that this issue remains wholly untested in the UK judicial system.

Some employers in the UK are introducing a hybrid vaccination or recent negative test (PCR or lateral flow/rapid antigen) requirement for entry into the workplace. By providing an alternative to vaccination, this approach may reduce the risk of claims for unfair dismissal or discrimination. It does not lessen the data protection issues and employers should ensure they are complying with their data protection obligations. As with a vaccination-only policy such a hybrid policy is wholly untested in the UK judicial system.

There is a further, ancillary issue, relating to data protection. The ICO has issued guidance essentially to the effect that although employers may undertake spot-checks of employee vaccination status, in most cases it is far less likely to be justifiable for employers to retain a record of any employee’s vaccination status: see question 11 below, and also see here.  

Last updated on 13/01/2022

10. Are there some workplaces or specific industries or sectors in which the government has required that employers make access to the workplace conditional on individuals having received a Covid-19 vaccination?

10. Are there some workplaces or specific industries or sectors in which the government has required that employers make access to the workplace conditional on individuals having received a Covid-19 vaccination?

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France

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Please see above (questions 8 and 9) regarding the workplaces and specific industries concerned by making the access to the workplace conditional on individuals having received a Covid-19 vaccination.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United Kingdom

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Yes.

The UK Department of Health and Social Care recently amended applicable regulations (the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014) to make it mandatory for all care home workers and other visiting professionals to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 unless they have an exemption or there is an emergency. The changes took effect from 11 November 2021. Proposals to extend this to all health and social care workers with face-to-face contact with patients and service users are currently being discussed by the UK government. If passed in their current form this expanded vaccine requirement would be effective from 1 April 2022.

Last updated on 13/01/2022

11. What are the key privacy considerations employers face in relation to ascertaining and processing employee medical and vaccination information?

11. What are the key privacy considerations employers face in relation to ascertaining and processing employee medical and vaccination information?

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France

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Moreover, regarding the processing of data relating to an employee’s vaccination, the CNIL has not yet issued a directive on the specific subject of the processing of employee vaccination data by employers. Because of their sensitive nature, data relating to employee health are subject to special legal protection: they are in principle prohibited from being processed. Employers, therefore, may not keep a list of vaccinated employees, or disclose the names of those who do not wish to be vaccinated.

In fact, according to the CNIL, "because of their sensitive nature, data relating to a person's health are subject to special legal protection: they are in principle prohibited from being processed. In order to be processed, its use must necessarily fall within one of the exceptions provided for by the GDPR, thus guaranteeing a balance between the desire to ensure the security of individuals and respect for their rights and fundamental freedoms. Moreover, their sensitivity justifies that they be processed under very strong conditions of security and confidentiality and only by those who are authorized to do so.

The exceptions that can be used in the context of work are limited and can generally be based on either :

  • the need for the employer to process this data to meet its obligations in terms of labour law, social security and social protection: this is the case for the processing of reports by employees,
  • the need for a health professional to process such data for the purposes of preventive or occupational medicine, (health) assessment of the worker's capacity to work, medical diagnoses etc.

For these reasons, employers who would like to initiate any steps aimed at ascertaining the state of health of their employees must rely on the occupational health services.

The CNIL points out that only competent health personnel (in particular occupational medicine) may collect, implement and access any medical forms or questionnaires from employees/agents containing data relating to their health or information relating in particular to their family situation, their living conditions or their possible movements"

However, we find these exceptions difficult to apply in the context of covid-19.

For employees subject to mandatory vaccination, the law allows the employer, or regional health agency if applicable, to store the result of the check on the proof of vaccination status.

Please note that the employer may not keep the proof of vaccination. In other words, the employer may not keep the QR code, only the “Yes/No” result of the test. Keeping the result is limited in time (currently until 15 November 2021).

The information thus collected is personal data subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Information about a person’s vaccination status is special category personal data for the purposes of the GDPR. It represents part of their personal health record and is afforded additional protections under data protection law.

An employer should only seek to process such data if it has a lawful basis for doing so under the UK’s implementation of the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018. In particular, there are limited lawful reasons for processing special category data such as health records.

It is beyond the scope of this Q&A answer to provide a detailed analysis of the potentially lawful bases for processing the special category data of employees, but general guidance can be found from the ICO – see here.

For these purposes, processing means:

  • checking an employee’s vaccine status digitally (e.g., by scanning a QR code);
  • checking an employee’s vaccine status manually and retaining any data from any such check in any form; or
  • any subsequent usage of the data after it has been checked digitally or manually and recorded.

Employers should be aware that the ICO has issued specific guidance on processing employee vaccine status data. Essentially, this guidance is that although employers may undertake spot-checks of employee vaccination status, there will be significantly fewer cases where it would it be justifiable for employers to retain a record of any employee’s vaccination status: see the ICO’s position on this as follows (quotes taken from the ICO here; emphasis has been added by us):

Does the UK GDPR apply if I decide to check people’s COVID status?

If you are only conducting a visual check of COVID Passes (either a hard-copy document or a pass held on a digital device) and do not retain any personal data from it, this would not constitute ‘processing’ personal data. The activity would therefore fall outside of the UK GDPR’s scope.

However, if you are conducting checks digitally (for example, by scanning the QR code displayed on the pass), this would constitute processing of personal data – even if you do not keep a record of it. The UK GDPR would therefore apply.

If you make a record of any personal data, whether you conduct visual or digital checks, then you would be processing personal data and the UK GDPR would apply.

Can I record information about my employees’ vaccine status?

Your reason for recording your employees’ vaccination status must be clear and necessary. If you cannot specify your use for this information and are recording it on a ‘just in case’ basis, or if you can achieve your goal without collecting this data, you are unlikely to be able to justify collecting it….

Last updated on 13/01/2022

12. What are the key health and safety considerations for employers in respect of remote workers?

12. What are the key health and safety considerations for employers in respect of remote workers?

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The health and safety considerations for employers in respect of remote workers are the following:

  • Modes of work time control or workload regulation;
  • Determination of the time slots during which the employer can usually contact the remote worker to respect the right to disconnect and the right to privacy;
  • Organise an annual meeting to discuss working conditions and workload; and
  • Evaluate professional risks, in particular those linked to the employee's distance from the colleagues and regulating the use of digital tools.
Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Employers have an ongoing legal duty to maintain a safe working place and environment. Responsibility for health and safety at work rests with the employer, whether or not that work is being done at the worker’s home. To comply with this duty, employers must conduct a risk assessment of the employee’s place of work; this includes when they are working from home.

Under the UK’s health and safety legislation, the HSE has issued guidance on how to safely implement homeworking arrangements: see here

In undertaking a risk assessment, employers should consider the following (non-exhaustive) factors:

  • whether the employee is aware of any specific risks regarding working from home;
  • whether the work activity and the proposed workspace are suitable;
  • whether the employee has suitable equipment to enable the work to be done and, if not, who will provide this; and
  • what the supervision or work contact arrangements for the employee will be.

The assessment can be done by the employee where they are working remotely but the employer will need to ensure it is actually completed, recorded, and periodically reviewed. Issues that arise from the risk assessment must be appropriately addressed.

There are separate regulations that deal specifically with employees who are computer users (and which regulate the usage of computers, screens, and relevant furniture such as desks and chairs), and these again also apply to home-based workers. More guidance can be found from the HSE here. The guidance includes a checklist for working with display screen equipment that employers can use: see here.

Last updated on 13/01/2022

13. How has the pandemic impacted employers’ obligations vis-à-vis worker health and safety beyond the physical workplace?

13. How has the pandemic impacted employers’ obligations vis-à-vis worker health and safety beyond the physical workplace?

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The pandemic does not strictly speaking have an impact on employers' obligations towards workers' health and safety beyond the physical workplace. But the National Interprofessional Agreement on remote status was renegotiated on 26 November 2020 and strongly raised awareness among employers on those issues to:

  • Communicate within the work community;
  • Adapt the managerial practices: trust and definition of clear objectives;
  • Train managers and employees;
  • Maintain social ties and prevent employees from isolation: it is useful to plan group time, to set up remote communication means to facilitate exchanges, to assist in case of difficulties with computer tools, etc; and
  • Make available to all employees, including those working from home, relevant contacts so that employees in vulnerable situations can use them.
Last updated on 21/09/2021

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The pandemic has not directly impacted employers’ obligations beyond the physical workplace from a health and safety perspective, as the legal duties and responsibilities that apply to employers predate the pandemic. The difference is that these issues have assumed a higher level of attention due to the wholesale adoption of remote working as a result of the pandemic.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

14. Do employer health and safety obligations differ between mobile workers and workers based primarily at home?

14. Do employer health and safety obligations differ between mobile workers and workers based primarily at home?

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No, the legal and conventional provisions on health and safety at work apply to both mobile workers and workers based primarily at home. It must be taken into account that the employer cannot have complete control over the place where teleworking is carried out and the environment, which is part of the private sphere. This implies an occupational risk assessment adapted to the case of mobile workers and the case of workers based primarily at home.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Not generally, except for:

  • different types of mobile workers (as opposed to home workers) may have specific needs or use different equipment, either temporarily or on an ongoing basis (in which case, the overarching health & safety principles remain the same but the application may differ); and
  • particular categories of mobile workers (for example, long-distance drivers) who may have the benefit of specific protections when it comes to working hours and rest breaks.
Last updated on 13/01/2022

15. To what extent are employers responsible for the mental health and wellbeing of workers who are working remotely?

15. To what extent are employers responsible for the mental health and wellbeing of workers who are working remotely?

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Employers are liable within the limits of their obligations (see question 12). As long as employers respect these obligations, in case of litigation, it will be up to the employee to demonstrate that the deterioration of their health is related to the employer's failure to respect its obligations.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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When it comes to protecting the mental health and wellbeing of workers, employers owe the same duties to employees who are working remotely as to those who are not.  Employers have a duty to maintain a safe working environment, both in the workplace and when working remotely. 

The HSE has issued guidance on mental health issues in the workplace generally – see here – and stress has also been identified as an issue that may particularly affect home workers (see here).

ACAS has also issued guidance on managing the mental health of workers during the pandemic: see here.

Last updated on 13/01/2022

17. To what extent have employers been able to make changes to their organisations during the pandemic, including by making redundancies and/or reducing wages and employee benefits?

17. To what extent have employers been able to make changes to their organisations during the pandemic, including by making redundancies and/or reducing wages and employee benefits?

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During the pandemic, employers were able to carry out reorganisations involving collective redundancies for economic reasons (subject to justifying a real and serious economic reason as defined by article L.1233-3 of the labour code).

They were also able to negotiate collective performance agreements to meet the needs linked to the operation of the company or to preserve or develop employment by adjusting the working hours of employees, remuneration, and determining the conditions of professional or geographical mobility within the company.

Employers may also have to negotiate or renegotiate agreements or charters on remote status or review their organisation by developing a co-working space, different from the company’s premises, on a regular or occasional basis or in case of exceptional circumstances or force majeure.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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There has been no change to underlying employment legislation or rights relating to redundancies.

In theory, any unilateral suspension from duties, reduction in hours and/or any reduction in pay by an employer, without employee or union agreement (or a pre-existing employer right to make such changes), can be challenged by the employee or a relevant union. Such a challenge would most likely be by way of a breach of contract claim, an unlawful deduction of wages claim, and/or a claim of constructive dismissal (by the employee) or some form of industrial dispute (by a union). In practice, with the alternative to such action often being outright redundancy, legal claims by affected employees or unions have been relatively rare.

There are no special restrictions on employers being able to implement redundancies, in line with existing laws and subject to the usual safeguards of employees’ rights.

In early 2020, the UK government introduced a paid furlough scheme – called the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) – allowing employers temporarily to suspend employees from work but still receive payment of part of their wages (supported by a government allowance to the employer). The scheme has now closed (it ended on 30 September 2021). Details of the scheme (now of historic relevance only) can be found here.

Last updated on 13/01/2022

18. What actions, if any, have unions or other worker associations taken to protect the entitlements and rights of remote workers?

18. What actions, if any, have unions or other worker associations taken to protect the entitlements and rights of remote workers?

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In general, employees and new works council members have a right to alert and withdraw from any situation which they have reasonable grounds to believe presents a serious and imminent danger to their life or health (article L.4131-1 and L.4121-2 of the labour code).

Apart from these actions, the new works council or the unions will always have the ability to report to the employer any malfunction affecting the entitlements and rights of remote workers.

In any case, please note that employees who wish to terminate their status as a remote worker will have priority to assume resume a non-teleworking position that corresponds to their professional qualifications and skills and to inform the employer of the availability of any such position (article L.1222-10 of the labour code).

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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There has not been any coordinated, general union campaign dealing with protecting employee entitlements and remote-worker rights.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), which is an umbrella body representing 48 member unions, has published pandemic guidance for unions: see here.

Individual unions have also published commentaries on this issue from time to time.

Last updated on 13/01/2022

19. Are employers required to consult with, or otherwise involve, the relevant union when introducing a remote-working arrangement? If so, how much influence does the union and/or works council have to alter the working arrangement (for example, to ensure workers’ health and safety is protected during any period of remote work)?

19. Are employers required to consult with, or otherwise involve, the relevant union when introducing a remote-working arrangement? If so, how much influence does the union and/or works council have to alter the working arrangement (for example, to ensure workers’ health and safety is protected during any period of remote work)?

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Remote-working is implemented within a collective agreement negotiated with the unions or, failing that, within a charter drawn up by the employer after the opinion of the new works council if it exists (article L.1222-9 of the labour code).

The collective agreement or, failing that, the charter drawn up by the employer specifies:

  • The conditions for switching to remote status, in particular in case of a pollution episode, and the conditions for returning to performance of the employment contract without remote working;
  • The terms of acceptance by the employee of the conditions of implementation of remote status;
  • The modes of control of the working time or regulation of the workload;
  • The determination of the time slots during which the employer can usually contact the remote worker; and
  • The modes of access to a telework organisation for disabled workers.

The way of negotiation seems to be prioritised by the legislature. Apart from those mandatory clauses, the social partners have every interest in being a force of proposals, which will be accepted or refused by the employer. If the unions refuse to sign the agreement, the employer may provide for these measures in the framework of a charter, which it may implement after the opinion of the new works council (non-binding opinion).

Finally, in the absence of a collective agreement or charter, when the employee and the employer agree to telework, they may formalise their agreement by any means.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Union activity in UK workforces is lower than in many other countries.

There is no legal obligation to consult a union about introducing a remote-working arrangement, unless there is a collective bargaining agreement in place that imposes such a requirement, or the employer habitually consults a relevant union about this.

Last updated on 25/11/2021