Because of the confinement measures taken to contain the Covid-19 epidemic, the situation of French companies is now worrying. In 2020, France will experience its worst year of economic recession since the end of the Second World War. Although the deconfinement is scheduled for May 11th, as announced on April 13th, its terms and conditions are still unclear at present. All sectors of the economy are impacted. Some, such as the restaurant, hotel, tourism, airline and automotive sectors are even harder hit. A large number of businesses, especially small independent companies, will have to close down, despite the aid granted by the State. On the other hand, other sectors manage to keep their activities at an almost normal pace, even if economic consequences cannot be excluded in the future, such as the gas and electricity industry, banks on the front line to cushion the shock or e-commerce. Globally, more than 10 million employees are currently on short-time working, i.e. more than one in two employees in the private sector, up to 93% in the construction sector, and 40%of them are teleworking. These figures can obviously be explained by the health situation and the impossibility for companies to continue their activity, but also by the closure of schools, forcing parents to look after their children. Within companies whose activity continues, health rules must be respected, but it is not the employer’s responsibility to guarantee the absence of any exposure of employees to risks, but to avoid them as much as possible and, if they cannot be avoided, to assess them regularly according to government recommendations, in order to then take all useful measures to protect the exposed workers. The main recommendation for companies is to telework their employees as much as possible and to avoid business trips in order to limit the spread of the virus. If the company’s activity does not allow it, the employer must then guarantee the safety of employees by rethinking the organisation of work. The employer is incumbent upon him to :
  • assess the risks incurred in the workplace which cannot be avoided according to the nature of the work to be carried out
  • determine, on the basis of this assessment, the most appropriate preventive measures
  • respect and enforce the barrier gestures recommended by the health authorities, in particular to allow a distance of one metre between employees
  • limit physical meetings to what is strictly necessary
  • cancel or postpone non-essential trips
The announcement of April 13th was particularly eagerly awaited. In his fourth speech since the start of the coronavirus epidemic in France, Emmanuel Macron gave a timetable for the release from confinement. From Monday 11 May, nurseries, schools, colleagues and high schools will gradually reopen their doors. Furthermore, the government is considering reopening all types of businesses on May 11, with distancing measures or masks if necessary. The Economy Minister, Bruno Le Maire, specified on Franceinfo, a French television channel, that all non-food retailer should reopen on 11 May, regardless of the type of activity or size of store, as is the case in Germany, for example. This does not mean that all the stores that will be allowed to do so will do so. Hardware stores, for example, which were allowed to open during containment, have for the most part remained closed. However, the step of reopening businesses is important for a large quantity of employees to return back to work, even though, if possible, telework is still preferable. The Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, considered on 19 April that “in companies, barrier gestures and social distancing must first of all be achieved, where possible, by maintaining telework.” On the other hand, cafés, hotels and restaurants, as well as other places where people gather, such as cinemas, theatres and museums, will remain closed. Likewise, there will be no major festivals or gatherings at least until mid-July. The decision on the date for the reopening of cafés, restaurants and bars will be taken at “the end of May”, announced the Economy Minister on Friday 24 April, following a meeting at the Elysée Palace on the hotel, restaurant and tourism sector, which is one of the most affected sector since the beginning of the crisis. To support establishments in serious financial difficulty after five weeks of closure, access to the Solidarity Fund will be extended for the hotel and restaurant industry to businesses employing up to 20 employees and generating up to 2 million in sales, compared with 10 employees and 1 million in sales for all VSEs. In addition, the amount of aid will be doubled to a maximum of EUR 10 000 for firms in the sector in serious difficulty. The French President announced in his speech of April 13th that the government will present a detailed plan of the organization of the end of the confinement on 28 April to the French citizens. During a conference with French mayors on 23 April, Emmanuel Macron said that the “deconfinement plan” will be presented to them around 27 April. But still, the date of 11 May to end the confinement will only be possible if the confinement is successful, indicated the General Director of Health, Jérôme Salomon. Elisabeth HEIL, in collaboration with François POURAY, Master student, University Paris II Panthéon Assas