The employer may issue directives and give instructions to his employees regarding the performance of their work and their conduct in the company. The employee must follow these instructions, according to the rules of good faith.
The employer can and must give instructions to his/her employees when it is a question, in particular, of protecting their health and safety or of safeguarding the company's image. When these instructions conflict with the employee's personality or private sphere, the situation is delicate.
Piercings, tattoos, short skirts or even Bermuda shorts: some employees allow themselves a touch of madness when it comes to their dress code at work. When such clothing compromises the health or safety of the employee, the employer is obliged to react. If not, the employer may be held liable.
When it is not a question of safety in the workplace, the employer may still have an interest in regulating the dress of his/her employees. Requiring a bank executive to wear a suit and tie or a receptionist in contact with customers not to wear a headscarf does not, in principle, problematic. On the other hand, when it comes to a computer specialist or a production employee, personal and religious freedom may in some cases take precedence over the employer's interests.
Alcohol and drugs in the workplace
Working under the influence of alcohol or drugs can have dramatic consequences in terms of safety. The employer must prevent such situations by issuing a clear directive to his/her employees. Whether the employer can require the employee to take a drug test will depend on the employee's job and the extent of the risk involved. In addition, such tests are subject to strict conditions of lawfulness.
Some employees do not hesitate to vent their views on social networks, sometimes to the detriment of the employer's legitimate interests. Insults, cyber-harassment, revealing a business secret... The employer is entitled to prevent this kind of abuse through a directive even if it concerns private social networks.
Health and safety
The employer can and must give instructions to his/her employees to prevent accidents and illnesses at work.
These instructions are admissible when they are limited to the behavior of employees in the company. The situation is more difficult when the employer wishes to prohibit his/her employees from practicing certain dangerous sports during their leisure time.
In the COVID19 crisis, vaccination is an effective and appropriate way to reduce company cases, work inabilities and quarantine. Employers will often not be able to order employees to be vaccinated or to disclose whether or not they wish to be vaccinated.
Inability to work
A non-faulty inability to work has numerous consequences, including the right to salary and holidays. Such an inability to work also leads to a period of protection against termination at an inopportune juncture. The employer must have the possibility to verify the validity of the inability to work and to request a medical certificate from the first day of absence.
Unfortunately, cases of sexual harassment and mobbing still occur in the workplace. The employer has the obligation to prevent such situations and to put an end to them. The employer can and should put in place a policy that clearly states that harassment is not tolerated within the company. This directive must provide for the procedure to follow in the event of a conflict and establish a confidential person.
If a situation of harassment arises, the employer must give instructions to the troublemaker and require that he or she immediately cease the behavior. Failure to do so will result in liability.
Burnout is unfortunately an increasingly common phenomenon within companies. A feeling of professional exhaustion, of no longer being able to meet one's obligations... It particularly affects executives who tend to work without counting the hours and employees who are very involved in their work. The employer must take care of their psychological health and give them instructions. Failure to do so may result in liability.
When it comes to scheduling holidays, the needs of the company and the wishes of the employee sometimes clash. In certain situations, the employer may impose a holiday date on the employee.
In some companies, business travel is the norm. However, this travel raises many issues, including work time and compensation during travel time or overnight stays. An employer’s directive to address these issues is necessary. There are special rules for business travel abroad.
Whether it is to prevent theft, to monitor the comings and goings of employees, to check the use of company computers or to check whether telecommuting employees are actually working, there are many reasons for an employer to want to set up video surveillance or electronic monitoring. In order to be legal, such surveillance will have to comply with numerous conditions of validity and follow a strict procedure. A directive is essential. The employer risks a lot if he does not do things properly.
The employer's default
During health crises or weather conditions, the employer is sometimes unable to provide work to the employee. In such cases, the employer may ask employees to perform alternative work.
When the employer fears for the health of his/her employees, particularly in the context of a pandemic, the employer may place an employee in quarantine even if it is not required by the authorities. If the quarantine is not required for health reasons, the employer must pay the employee's salary.
Sometimes it is not in the employer's interest to allow employees to talk freely about their wages among themselves. Many companies issue a directive to establish salary confidentiality. The validity of such a directive is controversial and may violate the Gender Equality Act.
When the employee has several jobs, the working hours add up... When the employee's secondary activity competes with that of his/her employer, the situation is particularly problematic. If the employee is a cross-border commuter and has a secondary activity at his/her place of residence, the employer risks having to pay social security contributions in the employee's country of residence. It is recommended to establish a directive to regulate the issue and set limits.
Cigarettes and electronic cigarettes
For several years, legislation has become stricter with smoking in public places. Employers must protect the health of their employees and ensure that they are not exposed to passive smoke.
Unwanted or private use of computers and business phones can create damage to the company. It can compromise the security of company data or result in a loss of productivity. The diligent employer should regulate the use of these items in a policy.
Love at Work
Relationships and work rarely go together. The employer fears arguments, lack of productivity or the risk of a breach of confidentiality. A directive is sometimes possible, but risks infringing on the personality rights of employees.
Less stress, less tedious commuting: telecommuting has its advantages. But also disadvantages... The risks of data leakage or that the employee takes advantage of it to take liberties with his schedule are real. The employer must issue a directive.