Muriel Pénicaud, Minister of Labour, brushed aside the fear expressed by business leaders of being the target of criminal prosecution from their employees kept at work and contaminated by Covid 19 It would be a « false debate » and there would be no « need to transform the law ».
This statement may seem a little hasty when the employer can in fact be prosecuted for offences of
negligence or recklessness towards employees such as endangering the life of others or involuntary homicide or injury.
The criminal liability regime differs depending on whether it is the employing entity itself or the
individual legal representative that is targeted A duty of care is requested for the legal entity and a simple neglect could trigger its criminal liability whereas a gross misconduct is sought to hold the legal
representative of the entity criminally liable.
Hence while she seemed to evacuate the criminal risk for employers the Minister of Labor recalled the
general obligations of prevention and guarantee of the health and safety at work incumbent upon employers in these times of epidemy.
Against the coronavirus, the employer is called upon to implement any possible prevention measures,
although it is a new and still little known risk In this respect, the Ministry has recalled to employers a series of general recommendations update their internal document on occupational risk assessment in including the Covid 19 and even the epidemic risk along with the staff representatives and the occupational medical services, implement teleworking ensure reinforced cleanings and barrier gestures etc..
Beyond this general framework pursuant to which the employer can be held civilly and criminally liable, the Ministry of Labor has begun to publish supplemental recommendations by trade, in practical health
prevention sheets against the coronavirus that employers are urged to follow for the relevant sectors of
The first three recommendation sheets released last Friday, March 27 concern shop cashiers bakeries and delivery drivers Three new sheets published on March 31 concern work in car garages, agricultural activities and retail shops They discuss safety distances, cleaning instructions and possible alternative actions to avoid contamination (careful and reinforced cleaning organization of flows of customers or of loading unloading replacement of the customer’s signature upon delivery by a photo, contactless payment etc).
Nine other sheets are to be published and will cover the activities of monitoring and safety cleanliness
crematorium/ funeral homes, distribution of fuel and car garage, maintenance with health risk plumbing
ventilation, etc cooks home help and personal services, ambulances, logistics or banking and insurance
The aim is to allow the continuation of the concerned businesses by specifying to employers what they are expected to do The respect of these recommendations will be crucial in assessing employers’ compliance with their prevention and safety obligations towards their employees in case they were to face litigations in the future.
Our Firm is available for any advice on health and safety compliance especially in the current context.
Advise Joffe & Associés : Blaise DELTOMBE