An Indian HR in France gives his point of view on the covid-19 crisis
An Indian HR in France point of view on the French government and corporate responses to the Covid 19 crisis.
Sarath graduated from our MSc International Human Resources Management. After an experience in the Rewards & Recognition Direction of IPSOS, he is currently working in Paris as Human Resource Manager with Foreo.
During the lockdown in France and now that it s easing up since 11th May, HR managers have been in front line, just like in many countries facing the crisis. Here s the testimonial of one Indian national, working as Hr Manager for a Swedish luxury cosmetic company in Paris on a few measures by the French government to help support affected economical sectors.
Indeed, the French government announced early on the implementation of the partial unemployment benefits which reached 10 million beneficiaries, who did not leave their jobs but received benefits from various sources other than just their company. 300 million euros of government backed loans for companies on top of 1 billion euros solidarity fund as well as measures to support training investment and many more have been implemented to avoid lay offs. But how did that really translate into in reality. We asked Mr Sarath Poyyara Sivadasan, an Indian national currently Hr Manager for a luxury cosmetics company in Paris.
Dear Sarath, thank you for accepting to take this interview. I m sure you are very busy in your current position. It s really interesting to get your views on what s going on in France with this lockdown. So first of all, how was the lockdown for you? Can you please explain how it worked?
“Well, I would say, it is quite difficult case HR people are dealing with one of these days. There is nothing we can take from the books we learned. The scenario is entirely new, and we learn every day and implement these new measures in companies. People are scared everywhere, especially in Paris. It is obvious from people’s reaction when you see anyone in the street or in the supermarket. I learn information from trustworthy resources but not from social media. You can collect information from your listed doctor, or from Ameli website (editor s note: Ameli is the Public Health Insurance system in France).
I think French government has done good initiatives so far to make our daily life easier and this is why the death rate is comparatively less than our neighbour countries- Italy and Spain. Even for self employed people, they can apply for a 1500 euros help from the French administration.”
You are in HR in a sector that must have been impacted by the government measures. In fact, there was a lot of news on the number of unemployed people in France. Did you have to lay off people? Can you please explain the unemployment measures in France?
“I work for a luxury brand in Paris. The market is dull and we closed our shops and office on 15th March as per the updates from the French administration. Many of our staff who work in the field had to sit at home. We cannot lay off people in France due to COVID. France is famous for its employment security reasons. I work for an international company and I heard news from our subsidiaries where they had to let their people go. Many other countries and their government allow that but not in France. As a company, government gave us mainly 3 options to take care of the COVID related work situation :
- Asking people to take their conge paye- since we do not know how far this situation will be. The employee will get paid 100 % in this scheme.
- We let our employees to use conge garde d’enfant- it is a child care leave. We allow this for employees who have children younger than 16 years old and they will get 90% of their salary supported by their company and social security.
- The third option was chomage partial otherwise called as partial employment- those who cannot work from home or be in the first 2 schemes will be benefited from 84% of their net salary without doing anything. The government contributed 345 billion euros for this scheme. In this scheme the companies pay their employee salary and the companies will get a refund on request.”
Did you have staff still working on the field? What measures were in place to allow them to work during lockdown?
“None of our staff are currently working on the field. Plus only FMCG products have a market these days.
We let our employees work from home- we make a weekly call with all the employees to make them feel we all are together, just like back in office- we talk about how was their last week and how they cope with this new home office concept. Many of our employees are passionate about their job and they want to work but we let them sit at home because we do not want them to get infected. They will get paid just like any other month- The employees need not to go through any procedures. It is the company who will do all the necessary. We list our employees in the government website- we pay our employees in the month end. And we will receive a reimbursement on request from Agence de Service et de Paiement (ASP). “
How are you preparing for the return of staff to work?
“It is the difficult part that I am currently working with. Since it is an international company, I need to follow the guidelines from the global team and will customize the preparations according to the local needs. Even though the lock down will be over on 11th May 2020, we do not want our people to work in the field or to take the usual crowded public transport. Many companies do the same- we will reopen our offices on 1st of June 2020. I prepared a protocol for our people to work at the office- like keeping distance from each other, ensure adequate supply of sanitizer and face masks for our employees in the office. We will ensure to conduct a body temperature checking twice a day for all employees. It is also important to make sure people follow these guidelines.”
In regards to the health situation, can you explain a bit how the securite sociale works? What about the recent information on your area being still a red zone? Does it worry you?
“Well, since COVID-19 issue is quite contagious and due to highest number of infected cases, the entire north east region of France is a red zone. The doctors give consultation by video calls for all diseases nowadays and these are completely free of charges. Since there is no cure has been invented so far, all patients are told to take rest unless they have severe breathing issues. Indeed it worries me as someone who works in HR- this is one of the reason we want our employees to stay at home till June 1st.”
Thank you very much Sarath and all our best wishes for a successful end of lockdown to you and your company.