Forced to work from home, willingly or by force? Can what happened during the Covid 19 pandemic be repeated during the Olympics? Companies in the Ile-de-France region are already invited to develop teleworking as much as possible during this period when public transport will be overwhelmed by the influx of tourists. Some employers may even consider closing their offices if they are deserted due to widespread teleworking. But under what conditions can they force their teams to stay at home?
Today, in principle, a company cannot force an employee to work from home if he or she does not wish to do so. Its agreement is an essential prerequisite," says Caroline André-Hesse, a lawyer and partner at the law firm Ayache. However, there is an exception in exceptional circumstances. "So that can be the case during a war, a pandemic. But it is not certain that the judges will consider the Olympic Games, which were planned well in advance, to be an exceptional circumstance," the lawyer said.
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Companies that would like to put all their teams in teleworking could still try to rush into this breach, even if it means taking a legal risk. But if the government wishes to impose teleworking, it can also simply decide by ordinance that it will be possible during this exceptional period for France. At the risk of reawakening bad memories of Covid and triggering political and trade union protests.
If they don't know where they stand, companies that would like to generalize teleworking next summer will no doubt be keen to spare their backs... by pre-emptively negotiating company agreements with trade unions. "These agreements may provide for specific working arrangements during the Olympics that will then be imposed on employees, including for generalised teleworking," says Caroline André-Hesse.
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Impose vacation dates on employees
To obtain the consent of the unions, companies could also use a rather deterrent threat: imposing vacation dates on those who refuse intensive teleworking. It's perfectly legal. The employer has the right to decide on the vacation dates of its teams in the summer, provided that they are given two months' notice.
But, in practice, many employees will probably be quite happy to save themselves even more difficult transport conditions than usual during competitions. Some are even wondering if they could demand to be fully telecommuting during the Olympics, when they are usually only allowed one or two days of work from home.
"The company is not obliged to accept but, if it does, the formalism to be respected is reduced to a minimum: a simple exchange of emails is enough for the company and the employee to formalise an agreement on additional teleworking days, even if they are not the subject of a formal amendment to the employment contract," says Caroline André-Hesse.