‘Work from your sick bed’: The French plan to battle absenteeism

France is considering creative solutions to curb the mounting rate of absenteeism due to sickness among its private sector workers, a problem that costs the country billions each year. Here’s what could be in store for workers in France.

'Work from your sick bed': The French plan to battle absenteeism
Photo: Worker off sick/Depositphotos

In 2017 the average private sector employee in France took 17 days of sick leave, a rate that’s increased by a day in three years and that costs La Sécu, France’s social security system, up to €10 billion a year.

“It’s as if our country had introduced an extra day off,” French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said of the issue.

A new report presented to l’Elysée on Wednesday lists some remedies to mend the trend with suggestions that may raise a few eyebrows but also appease others.

Here are the main proposals of the report. The government will now decide whether it wants to implement the measures.

Working from home

The plan is to find a third avenue between doing no work at all and having to graft if one is indeed unwell.

It may seem straightforward to some, but according to the authors of the study making sure “teleworking” (télétravail) is recognised as an official alternative to the regular system of sick leave could save millions.

“The system is currently too binary. Doctors should be provided with options such as offering employees ‘work from home’ prescriptions, as an alternative to the average doctor’s note suggesting total or partial rest,” reads the report.

So workers in France could soon be asked to work from their sofas or even their sick beds when they are unwell.

This may suit workers who don't want to miss out on pay.



The basic legal cover in France means when workers are off sick they have to go without pay for the first three days and you are generally required to have a doctor's note saying you are sick from day one. Although certain companies will cover these three days.
After those initial three days the worker's salary will be covered by the social security up to a maximum of €44.34 a day.

Helping people on long-term sick leave get back to work

One of the added advantages of teleworking is that it will prevent employees on longer periods of sick leave from “running the risk of dropping out of professional life”, the study reads.

The authors also suggest that companies offer workers with ongoing illnesses or conditions more possibilities in terms of part-time work, as an alternative to stopping work outright.

“After 6 months of stopping, it's difficult to get back to work. After a year it's over, done,” said Jean-Luc Bérard, one of the experts behind the study. 

A compulsory day of unpaid sick leave

Perhaps the most controversial of the proposed measures is the introduction of an extra day of contractually agreed unpaid sick leave.

Many private sector companies in France don’t pay employees for their first three days of sick leave, referred to as jour de carences, whereas other businesses continue to pay their off-duty workers nonetheless.

Under this measure, employees would be able to use the extra day in the eventuality of them of being ill, but it would mean one day less of pay.

When Prime Minister Philippe first brought up the proposal in November 2018 the head of France’s CGT workers union slammed it by saying it implied those on sick leave were “faking it or lazy”.

The proposal is in particular a hard pill to swallow for private sector employees who have to claim back their sick leave from La Sécu if their company doesn’t cover the jours de carence.

For workers in France to accept the new proposition, the authors suggest that the principal of subrogation de salarie, whereby a company pays the employee and then claims it back from the social security system, is introduced across the board in the private sector. 


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How to get a summer job in France

As the summer holidays approach in France, many employers are looking for seasonal workers - so if you're looking for a summer job, here's how to go about it.

How to get a summer job in France

There are thousands of employment offers in France – a simple internet search for jobs d’été came up with numerous jobs boards offering work in France, while the government-backed Centre d’Information et de Documentation pour la Jeunesse (CIDJ) offers advice and information on all aspects of life for young people in France, including finding seasonal work and summer placements.

Sectors including agriculture, hospitality and tourism are always recruiting in the summer, seeking fruit-pickers, holiday camp workers and serving/hotel staff.

But what are the rules for people seeking summer jobs?

READ ALSO Vendange: What you really sign up for when you agree to help with the French wine harvest


Children from the age of 16 (under certain circumstances, the age limit drops to 14) who are legally resident in France can work as long as they have written authorisation from their parents or legal guardians. A model authorisation letter is available here

Those under the age of 18 cannot undertake certain jobs for health and safety reasons.

In the following circumstances, children as young as 14 or 15 can work during school holidays.

  • The holidays must last at least 14 days;
  • The child must work no more than half the days of the holiday – so, if a vacation period is two weeks, they can work for no more than one of those weeks;
  • The child is given ‘light duties’ that offer no risk to their safety, health, or development;
  • From the age of 15 and if the child has completed their troisieme education, a minor can register for an apprenticeship. 


Salary is usually paid monthly and will have a payslip. For those aged 18 and over, pay will be at least equal to the minimum wage.

 For those aged 14 to 17, who have less than six months’ professional experience, the minimum allowed rate is 80 percent of the minimum wage. For those aged 17 to 18, the rate rises to a minimum of 90 percent of France’s minimum wage.

  • The minimum wage in France is currently €10.85 gross per hour (€1,645.58 gross per month based on a 35-hour week);
  • the employment contract is fixed-term and can take different forms (fixed-term contract, seasonal employment contract, temporary employment contract, etc);
  • Seasonal employees are subject to the same obligations as the other employees of the company and have access to the same benefits (canteens, breaks, etc.).

Under 18s have certain additional protections:

  • between the ages of 14 and 16, during school holidays, employees on any contract cannot work more than 35 hours per week nor more than 7 hours per day;
  • They cannot work at night;
  • Those aged 14 to under 16 working during their school holidays can only be assigned to work which is not likely to harm their safety, their health or development.

Right to work in France

If you’re a French citizen or hold permanent residency in France then you have the right to work, but for foreigners there are extra restrictions.

Anyone who holds the passport of a EU/EEA country or Switzerland, is free to work in France or to travel to France seeking work without needing a visa or work permit.

Most other people will need permission to work in France – even if it’s only for a short period or for casual work such as grape-picking. Depending on your country of origin you may need a visa – everything you need to know about that is here.

In addition to the visa, you may also need a work permit, which is the responsibility of the employer.  To employ anyone in France for less than 90 days, an employer must get a temporary work permit – before the prospective employee applies for a short stay visa. This permit is then sent to the embassy at which the employee is applying for a visa.

If you come from countries including the UK, USA and Canada you can spend up to 90 days in France without a visa – but you may still need a work (convention d’accueil) if you want to work while you are here.

READ ALSO Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in France

Certain countries have specific ‘seasonal worker’ visas on offer, for certain sectors which allows – for example – Canadians to come to France and work the ski season. 

Cash-in-hand jobs

Certain sectors which have a lot of casual workers – for example seasonal fruit-picking – do have cash-in-hand jobs, known in France as marché noir (black market) or simply travail au black (working on the black, or working illegally). 

This is of course illegal and working this way carries risks – as well as the possibility of losing your job if labour inspectors turn up you are also in a vulnerable position. If your employer suddenly decides not to pay you, or make unexpected deductions from your wages, there is very little you can do about it since you won’t have any kind of work contract.