by Elise Vanhamme
This week in France, long queues at the petrol station or even closed petrol stations altogether have not been an unfamiliar sight. Due to major strike action at both the Esso-ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies oil refineries, fulfilling petrol station supplies is currently proving particularly challenging. But what should you do if this makes it difficult for your employee to get to work?
Force majeure is defined as any exceptional circumstance, beyond the control of the person concerned, rendering their performance of a pre-planned obligation impossible. To constitute force majeure, the circumstances must therefore be both unforeseeable and insurmountable.
However, the current fuel supply problems in France can hardly be considered a force majeure in justifying an employee's absence. The strikes were announced ahead of time, meaning any supply problems were in fact foreseeable to some extent. Questions could also be raised about the insurmountable nature of the situation. Are there no available alternatives that could get the employee into work?
If the fuel shortages have made it impossible for the employee to travel by car, there are alternative solutions to consider. These include using public transport, cycling, carpooling or working from home.
A first alternative to commuting by car is using public transport. To encourage this, employers are required to make mandatory contributions, regardless of whether the employee in question works full or part-time.
This contribution accounts for 50% of the cost price of any season ticket procured by the employee, provided that it covers their entire journey, it is the most direct route between the employee's place of residence and their place of work, and that it is a second class ticket. Any such employer contributions are exempt from social security contributions and fees.
When multiple season tickets are required (train, metro, bus, public bike rental, e-scooters, etc.), this scheme applies to each individual season ticket. It is important to note that this does need to be a subscription based formula. Single-use tickets are therefore excluded from this scheme. In addition, this mandatory contribution can also be coupled with a sustainable mobility contribution.
One drawback that can make using public transport less appealing to employees is being at the mercy of timetables. However, such crisis situations do require a certain amount of flexibility. A solution here could be to adjust employee work schedules to better accommodate public transport timetables. To avoid any discussions down the line, it is advisable to include any such agreements as addenda in employee contracts.
Another alternative is to encourage cycling or carpooling. To promote the use of environmentally sustainable modes of transport, a sustainable mobility package (forfait mobilités durables) was introduced several years ago by the French legislature, replacing mileage and carpool allowances.
This contribution applies to employees using e-bikes, mopeds, motorbikes, electric scooters, etc. for their commute, as well as for those carpooling. The maximum allowance is €700 per year and per employee (for 2022 and 2023), while it is also exempt from social security contributions and fees.
If an employee were to combine using public transport with other sustainable modes of transport, then they would be eligible for both the public transport scheme and sustainable mobility package, albeit within certain limitations.
All terms and conditions on the allocation of the sustainable mobility package (e.g. eligible amount, proof of using sustainable modes of transport) can be incorporated into any company agreement or unilateral decision by the employer.
A third alternative, of course, is that of homeworking or ‘télétravail’. Should the employee's position allow it, working from home may be the simplest solution for all concerned. However, there are certain implications that should also be considered. On the one hand, agreements need to be in place with the employee around working hours, availability, follow-up of tasks and workload, etc. Such agreements are best formalised as addenda to any employment contracts. On the other hand, with rising energy costs, you should also definitely factor in any associated costs to the employee.
There are three types of associated costs:
These costs qualify as professional expenses, meaning that any employee reimbursements are not subject to social security contributions.
However, working out exactly what proportion of these costs are linked to professional activities can prove rather time-consuming and involve a certain amount of red tape. As such, it is also possible to simply apply a flat rate benefit. If the time spent working from home is inconsistent in nature, then an allowance of €2.50 per day can be awarded, without exceeding €55 per month.
Any further questions regarding alternatives for your employees in the face of French fuel shortages? Looking for a solution tailored to your business? Then be sure to get in touch with one of our experts!
In our opinions, we rely on current legislation, interpretations and legal doctrine. This does not prevent the administration from disputing them or from changing existing interpretations.
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