Mandatory masks in the workplace in France: FAQs

As masks are set to become mandatory in the workplace in France from September 1, more details have emerged on how this will work - including the types of workplaces, and employer responsibility. We explain.

19 August 2020
By Connexion journalist

Employment minister Elisabeth Borne confirmed the measure yesterday (August 18), and said that the recommendations had been made based on government advice.

She added that any future changes or amendments to the rules would also be based on “what [the government] has been able to observe in professional clusters”.

Read more: Masks at work mandatory in France from September

Why are masks being made mandatory?

The rules are part of the government’s bid to limit the spread of Covid-19, and make workplaces safe for everyone. Many workplaces are in enclosed spaces, where physical distancing may be challenging.

Both factors are known to increase the risk of infection between people. Requiring everyone to wear a mask can reduce this risk by limiting the potential number of infected droplets in the air if, for example, someone coughs.

Ms Borne said: “It is necessary to systematise - as recommended by [health body] le Haut Conseil de la Santé Publique - the wearing of masks in all workplaces that are enclosed and shared.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said: “A fabric mask can protect others around you.”

It recommends mask-wearing, along with other hygiene measures such as physical distancing and handwashing. 

It adds that you should clean your hands before putting your mask on, and after you take it off, and that you should avoid touching or moving the mask while it is on. You should remove your mask by touching the straps only. If you plan to reuse the mask, and it is not damaged, dirty, or wet, you can store it in a plastic resealable bag until you take it out again. 

Your mask should be washed in hot water and soap or detergent at least once a day, and be fully dry before being reused, the WHO said.

What kind of offices are affected?

So far, the government has said that the rules will apply to all offices or workplaces with more than one person working in them, and any areas in which staff are likely to cross paths or come into contact with others.

The rules will also apply to meeting rooms, corridors, changing rooms, and also “open space” or open-plan offices.

Masks will still be mandatory even if plexiglas or other dividers between workers are installed.

Who has to pay for or provide the masks?

As masks are now considered as necessary individual equipment for workers, the workers themselves will not be expected to provide or pay for the coverings.

Costs will now be taken on by employers. Previously, this had merely been a recommendation. It is now law.

Does this mean I have to go into the office?

Not necessarily - Ms Borne still said that employers should allow and enable staff to work from home wherever possible. It is up to the individual employer to decide what is necessary for their business.

What are the consequences for not wearing a mask?

It will be up to the individual business, workplace or office to enforce the rules. Any staff or employee who refuses to wear a mask, or who does so improperly, will be subject to disciplinary sanctions enforced by their employer, Ms Borne said.

Warning of ‘coercive measures’

Even before Ms Borne announced the new rules, Patrick Martin, deputy president of employer federation MEDEF, had warned against “general measures that are too coercive”, and the psychological impact of making masks mandatory.

He told news source FranceInfo: “There is a practical and symbolic dimension. This will make workers feel as though the epidemic has returned totally, which is not the case for the moment.

“We should not send out a signal that says our country is stopping, because that would be fatal, especially in the workplace.”

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