Following a surge in new coronavirus cases, France has decided that employees in most offices must wear masks at work.
Today (18 August), France’s labour minister Élisabeth Borne announced that employees in open-plan offices and factories will be required to wear face masks at work from 1 September. Face coverings will be mandatory in all indoor workspaces except inside individual offices.
All employees must wear masks while moving around inside workplaces, corridors and meeting rooms, and it will be the responsibility of the employer to provide staff with access to face coverings.
The decision was made in response to the recent uptick in new coronavirus cases in France. The country’s average number of new cases has doubled in the last three weeks to 2,000 a day. According to The Local, workplaces have been identified as the source of many clusters in France in recent weeks.
Workers in France are still being urged to work from home or remotely where possible. Borne said last weekend that this relates especially vulnerable people and would permit companies to limit the number of employees present at the same time in a business.
Borne also said she plans to discuss the option of introducing physical barriers, such as plexiglass, between desks in workplaces.
The situation in Ireland
In Ireland, the Government’s Return to Work Safely Protocol, published in June, said that face masks are not strictly mandatory for workplaces but should be used where “reasonably practicable” in certain scenarios.
Irish employers should enforce the wearing of face masks when there is a suspected case of Covid-19 or where the recommended physical distancing guidelines are not possible.
Face masks are also mandatory on public transport and in shops or other retail settings. With schools set to reopen in the next number of weeks, teachers of all levels and secondary school students will be required to wear masks where distances of two metres can’t be maintained.
No further announcements have been made by the Government in relation to workplace mask-wearing since the Return to Work protocol was issued in June.