The French Ministry of Labor published a decree on Sunday (14) temporarily suspending the ban for employees to take their meals at their office. This practice is prohibited by article R.4228-19 of French labor law and results in a fine for the employer and a disciplinary sanction for the employee.
France is considered to be one of the European countries with the most labor regulations: the labor code has more than 3000 pages and the country was one of the first to impose the “right to disconnect”, which obliges companies with more than 50 employees to specify schedules when employees do not need to read or respond to emails or job applications.
With the distance rules to contain the coronavirus pandemic, however, business canteens have seen their capacity reduced: as of January 31, the minimum distance between two people without a mask – as in cafeterias and restaurants – has become two meters. . To deal with the situation, the government suspended the “anti-dust mite” article for the duration of the state of emergency.
The 2008 law which prohibited counter meals justified hygiene problems: according to the ministry, research at the time revealed that the rate of bacteria in some offices was higher than in bathrooms. The ban also forced companies to create cafeterias or rest rooms for employees, which appealed to union members.
Even before the 2008 decree, companies already banned lunch boxes to reduce the need for cleaning. Since new anti-virus health rules require more frequent cleaning, eating in the office no longer means maintenance costs for employers.
Measures to fight the pandemic have also changed the way restaurants and bars work in France. Since February 1, they are only open until 6 p.m., due to the curfew. From this moment, only deliveries are possible.
On the Internet, a French video satirizing the dietary changes imposed by the pandemic shows tourists visiting a restaurant transformed into a museum. The guide explains that it was a custom for several people to gather to eat at this location and often had to wait at the counter until a table became vacant. “But did people take peanuts in their hands?” Asks an American tourist. “And did they sit across from each other?” A boy asks. Posted on January 20, it was viewed by over 200,000 people in three weeks.