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LIVING IN FRANCE

How the tightening of France’s unemployment benefits could affect you

For some years France has enjoyed the reputation of being generous with its unemployment system - but is the tide turning with the new range of measures announced on Tuesday?

How the tightening of France's unemployment benefits could affect you
Photo: AFP

The government has presented its draft proposals for toughening up the system around French unemployment benefits – both in terms of who is eligible and how much they get in payments.

Prime Minister Eduoard Philippe told French newspaper Le Parisian that the reforms aim to cut the number of unemployed people by 250,000 and the benefits bill by €3.4 billion by the end of 2021.

France has a reputation for being generous with its benefits, largely because of the amount one can receive in monthly payments.

Unemployment benefits are calculated not as a flat rate, but as a percentage of the salary you were receiving at the time you lost your job (and therefore how much you have been paying in contributions into the system) up to a ceiling of €7,700 a month.

So if you were made redundant from a high flying job, you could end up getting several thousand euros a month in benefits.

The theory behind it is that if you have a few months out of work you can maintain your lifestyle on benefits until you find new job, and won't need to be making drastic changes like moving to a cheaper house or area and potentially forcing your children to change schools.

But if these new rules – which are only at the draft stage at the moment – are passed through the French parliament, some of that could be changing. 

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France's prime minister Edouard Philippe and labour minister Muriel Pénicaud announcing the proposals. Photo: AFP

So who gets it?

Eligibility is one of the major changes suggested. Previously you only needed to have been working for four months out of the previous 28 (or the previous 36 months if you are over 50) but it is proposed that regulation gets tighter so that only people who have worked for six months out of the last 24 months will be entitled to unemployment benefits.

There are also some extra protections planned for self-employed people and people who have resigned from their job, rather than being made redundant or come to the end of a fixed term contract. But be careful not to get sacked – having faute lourde (basically gross negligence) written anywhere on your severance documents is still likely to preclude you from being eligible for benefits.

In order to obtain benefits you will still need to be registered with the Pôle Emploi and be actively looking for work.

How much do they get?

The government says it will also be recalculating some rates to ensure that people in work are always better off than those out of work – under the current system it is sometimes possible for people alternating between short-term contracts and periods of unemployment to be better off than those working continuously.

The new base rate will be calculated against the average monthly salary, but can never be less than 65 percent of the average monthly salary.

The amount is also being cut in some quite specific areas. Anyone who had a gross working income of €4,500 or above will have their entitlement cut by 30 percent, but only after they have been employed for more than seven months. The cut will apply down to a 'floor' of €2,261 and does not apply to people aged 57 or over.

Although the big payouts are always the headline-grabbers, unions have pointed out that half of the 2.6 million people currently receiving unemployment benefit receive less than €860 a month.

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What about help to find another job?

More help will be provided. Although the benefits system is generous the French unemployment office – Pôle Emploi – didn't always have the best reputation at being helpful in finding new work, especially for people who worked in management or highly specialised sectors.

Now more than 1,000 new Pôle Emploi advisers will be recruited to set up new support services, Muriel Pénicaud, Minister of Labour, announced on Tuesday, thus putting an end to three years of downsizing of the public body.

From January 1st 2020, the Pôle Emploi advisers will also offer two half-days of intensive support to job seekers who so wish within the first four weeks following their registration with the job search organisation.
 
It will continue to offer free French classes to those who need them, which can be very helpful for Anglophone jobseekers who need to brush up their French.
 
Anything else in the proposals?
 
Yes, the government is looking to crack down on employers who misuse temporary contracts (the contract a durée déterminée or CDD). Temporary six month or one year contracts are only supposed to be used in exceptional circumstances, and are not supposed to be repeatedly renewed. However because of the complexity of French employment law which makes it very difficult for bosses to sack workers or make them redundant, many employers have resorted to using a high level of workers on temporary contracts. 

The proposals name six sectors that will be subject to charges for using temporary contracts – they are; accommodation, food, agri-food, water and waste, plastics and wood and paper. The construction and health sectors are exempted from the charge, which amounts to €10 per CDD contract issued.

If you're looking for a job in France, check out The Local's jobs site.

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For members

LIVING IN FRANCE

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

Strikes

But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.

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