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According to this NPR article and this podcast episode (published June 2022):

The French labor code prohibits workers from eating lunch in the workplace.

Is this a real French law, and does violating it have actual legal consequences, or is it only a matter of being shunned by peers?

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    Two answers that were deleted for lack of references were real life experiences of being able to eat at your desk in France. I can't find any study or article that proves that there's no consequences for eating at your desk (well, proving the absence of something is always hard) so I won't edit back my answer. I think it at least deserves to be a comment, as the question clearly asks about real life consequences and not just about the existence of the law itself.
    – Echox
    Jun 28 at 8:53
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    @Echox I would prefer if those answers were undeleted. Can we please bring them back? Jun 28 at 9:36
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    @pipe why prefer the narrowest interpretation of the question? The law is interesting because it affects human experiences. And considering that the users did not lie, they are in fact primary sources! Jun 28 at 15:02
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    @AgnishomChattopadhyay Because you're not on a generic forum where interesting questions are discussed. This website can only refute explicit claims that are stated and can be agreed upon, otherwise it turns into said discussion forum filled with simply opinion and anecdotes, not a website to refute or authenticate claims in a neutral way. Primary sources are generally not allowed, unless perhaps they are french lawyers.
    – pipe
    Jun 28 at 15:40
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    Nowadays, the work-desk might very well mean my kitchen table at home...
    – jlliagre
    Jun 28 at 20:48

2 Answers 2

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Yes, it is illegal for an employer to let an employee eat at their desk.

Article R4228-19

It is forbidden to allow workers to take their meals in the premises assigned to work.

It is the employer's responsibility: an employee who would be caught by the labor inspection eating at their desk could not be punished, but the employer could be.

The motivation of this law is to prevent an employer from pressuring an employee to work during their lunch break.

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    What does "premises" mean here? Are employees required to leave the premises where they work entirely, or does the French original carry a different meaning? Jun 27 at 10:32
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    @JackAidley In French: "les locaux affectés au travail", a better translation may be "places dedicated to work", a break room or a canteen are not concerned by this rule.
    – Gwen
    Jun 27 at 11:09
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    @AgnishomChattopadhyay I found this decision where 4228-19 is evoked, but it's not directly related (when no room is dedicated to lunch breaks, the employer has to provide "tickets restaurant" that you can use to pay for meals).
    – Gwen
    Jun 27 at 11:24
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    @JackAidley: Not necessarily entirely, if the premises have dedicated places. Article R4228-22 mentions that companies with over 50 employees must provide a dedicated room for eating. For smaller companies, they may either provide it (they don't have to, but may choose to), or employees will go out (home, or to a local restaurant, for example). Although, honestly, in Paris I have seen coworkers eating at their desk in small companies; I wasn't even aware this was forbidden... Jun 27 at 17:57
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    If you read the NPR article, the original motivation of the law was for health reasons. Most workplaces were factories, which were not sanitary places to eat. They didn't have cafeterias at the time, so workers would go out to restaurants to eat. Ironically, the law has been temporarily reversed for health reasons: the pandemic. But now most workplaces are clean offices.
    – Barmar
    Jun 28 at 16:49
48

It was previously banned and now it is permitted, as of 2021:

Decree No. 2021-156 of February 13, 2021 temporarily adjusting the provisions of the Labor Code relating to catering premises now allows employees to eat "inside the premises assigned to work" by way of derogation from article R4228 -22 of the Labor Code.

It's a decree with clauses related to Covid, and employers arranging hygenic eating places without congregation at a canteen.

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  • Hopefully. Because I know a lot of employers and employees had no choice but to break this rule during the lockdown. I am not sure about the "temporarily" word, however. Are you sure this decree is temporary? I don't see any deadline date in the text, but maybe it is implicit from the introduction of the decree and the references to the other texts, which explicitly mention the covid reasons. I'm not sure how to interpret legalese.
    – dim
    Jun 28 at 9:06
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    Yes it's a temporary degree with clauses related to hygene, and employers arranging hygenic eating places without congregation at the canteen. Jun 28 at 9:20
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    @dim Article 3 of that decree states it is limited in time, up to six months after the end of the state of sanitary emergency as far as I understand it. This state of emergency ended on June 1st 2021, however there was a transition period, that has been extended so far to July 31st 2022. So it's a bit unclear to me if this decree is still applicable. What's certain still is that it is indeed temporary. Jun 28 at 10:56

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