Coronavirus: will employees be forced to work 60 hours a week?

Work harder to get by. This is one of the axes of the "unprecedented" legislative and regulatory arsenal deployed by the government to win the "economic war" against the coronavirus. An all-out plan stemming from the emergency law to deal with the Covid-19 epidemic, which includes 25 orders presented this Wednesday in the Council of Ministers, including four on a component of measures relating to labor law.

With a range of considerable flexibility, proposed the time that containment will last. Unheard of for employers! What alarms the unions and part of the opposition.

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In order to "give flexibility to companies", the executive decided to break as many obstacles as possible on working hours. For example, some employers may request up to 60 hours of work per week. This possibility already exists in the Labor Code.

But, to put it in place, today we need "derogations granted under conditions fixed by decree", in other words in very rare cases. Concretely, employees may thus be required to work a 60-hour week compared to 48 hours currently, as well as several 46-hour weeks on average against 44 hours over a period of 12 consecutive weeks.

"If it is occasional, for example for one or two weeks, volunteering is not required" specifies the ministry based on case law. In other words, in case of refusal the employee can be dismissed. On the other hand, "if it is a new organization of work that lasts one or two months, volunteering is required" according to the entourage of Muriel Pénicaud.

Overtime payment

This provision which will not go through an agreement – the unions having no say – will apply unilaterally, but will be reserved for only companies particularly necessary for the security of the Nation or for the continuity of economic and social life . "It will be limited to certain sectors, which will have to be listed and this for a limited period", insists the entourage of the Minister of Labor Muriel Pénicaud. Among the economic activities that could be concerned: those of energy, telecoms, in logistics, transport, the agricultural world, the food industry.

Thus, depending on the amount of work, the targeted companies may considerably increase the hours "to deal with an exceptional situation in the country". In return there will be a payment in "overtime" from the 36th hour (increased by 25% or more if an agreement provides) and in compliance with "legal rest time", insisted the ministry.

Some companies will be able to “turn 7 days a week”

Regarding the rules for weekly rest and Sunday rest, they will however be turned upside down. Depending on the sector, compensatory rest time between two work periods may thus be shortened from 11 compulsory hours to 9 hours. Finally, concerning Sunday work rules, they will also be relaxed "to allow certain companies to operate 7 days a week", particularly in the telecoms, food and transport sectors, and "it will be only on the basis volunteering, ”we tell the ministry of labor.