Coronavirus: The measures France has taken that impact workers

As France fights what President Emmanuel Macron has dubbed “a war” against coronavirus, the government has announced a series of measures aimed at keeping its economy afloat and protect against job losses.

Coronavirus: The measures France has taken that impact workers
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Labour Minister Muriel Pénicaud. Photo: AFP

Twenty-five measures (ordonnances) in total – specifically targeting both employers and employees – will aim to lessen the negative repercussions of the epidemic on the French economy. 

“It's a novel and massive way to protect skills and businesses,” France's Labour Minister Muriel Pénicaud said as she laid out the plan to the press.

“France will go into recession this year,” Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has previously stated.

The country went into lockdown on March 17th, with its activity level reduced to the very minimum and all sectors focused on tackling the coronavirus epidemic.

The new measures are products of the state of health emergency that the government has declared and their main goal is that, after an inevitable global and national financial downturn, France will be able to get back on its feet as quickly as possible.

Here’s a look at the main points of the temporary measures.

Temporary unemployment

The government has allowed employers to declare chômage partiel (temporary unemployment) in a bid to prevent companies laying off staff en masse. To encourage those companies, hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, making workers redundant, the state has said it will foot most of the wage bill.

According to the government over 400,000 companies representing over four million workers had applied for the status on April 2nd.

If companies qualify for “chômage partiel” their workers will get 84 percent of their net salary during the period they are not working, while those earning minimum wage (€1,219 net a month) get their whole salary reimbursed. 

The measure only covers those earning up to 4.5 times the minimum wage (€4,607.82 net a month).

The benefit (indemnité) is paid by the employer who is then reimbursed by the state. Workers on a temporary (CDD) or permanent (CDI) contract whose company hit by the crisis will be covered.

France's jobs agency website Pôle Emploi says it is up to the employer not the employee to organise the paperwork.

“At the practical level, the employee does not have to take any steps to benefit from the partial activity allowance (no registration or updating). The employer is responsible for requesting the benefit from the regional labor administration (DIRECCTE),” reads the website.

READ ALSO: Chômage partiel: How to access temporary unemployment in France



A 60 hour work week

Employers may, during the period of coronavirus crisis management, require employees to work longer than what is normally allowed in France.

This goes for all “activities especially necessary to ensure the nation’s security and the continuation of economic and social life,” the government has stated. 

An employee may now work all of 60 hours one week, compared to 48 hours previously. The maximum work day has been extended to 12 hours, while the minimum period of rest has been decreased to 9 hours. 

Those who will be affected by the new rules are employees in the sectors like energy, telecom, logistics, transport and farmers.

A mandatory holiday

Employers may impose holiday on their employees during the coronavirus emergency – six days in total.

This does not mean that the employees get six extra days of holiday this year, but that businesses can force them to take some of their annual holiday entitlement, to limit financial losses following them being unable to work. 

Only businesses that have a pre existing agreement with unions may however make use of this point. If there are no unions in the business, an agreement needs to be made with the employees.

Employers may also require that employees take their RTT days (time off in lieu for people who have worked above their agreed hours) at a certain time. 

The new government measures will open for employers to impose up to 10 such days on their employees. 

Help package for self-employed workers

Self-employed people and small business owners that lose out during the coronavirus crisis may be eligible for a €1,500 help package that they will be able to apply for soon.

For more details on what the criteria are for getting this aid package, click here.

Other social measures

Businesses and self-employed will also be able to suspend payments on rent, gas and electricity.

Mortgage holiday

There is currently no 'holiday' for people paying a mortgage, with the government saying that the measures outlined above should mean that people are able to keep up with mortgage payments.

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Your questions answered: Legal rights as a foreigner in France

The French Constitution offers broad legal protection to anyone in France from the right to trial to the right to legal advice, but there are some scenarios specific to foreigners in France.

Your questions answered: Legal rights as a foreigner in France

What are my rights if I am arrested or imprisoned?

If you are arrested you have the same rights as a French citizen to legal advice, phone calls, bail and a full trial – full details HERE.

There are some extra things to be aware of however;

Once arrested you have the right to an interpreter during police interviews.

You have the right to call your Embassy, although the help the Embassy can offer you is much more limited than many people think.

If you are released while awaiting a court hearing you will usually have to hand over your passport and undertake not to leave the country. If you are not a French resident, the judge can assign you a residency address in France.

If you are found guilty and imprisoned in France you maintain several rights, such as the right to vote (if you have French citizenship). France’s interior ministry has a handout detailing these rights, HERE

Can I appeal against my sentence?

Yes, you have the right to appeal a court’s decision.

Keep in mind that this can be a lengthy process with very specific deadlines – and it can go either way, so you risk a sentence being increased.

If you are acquitted in court,  French law also allows for the prosecution to appeal against your acquittal.

I am the victim of a crime, what are my rights?

In France, the role of the state and the prosecutor is to protect the peace, this means that if someone commits a crime against you, it is up to the state to decide whether to move forward with criminal proceedings.

It’s not up to the victim to decide whether or not to press charges.

Conversely, if the state chooses not to go ahead with criminal proceedings, but you (the victim) want them to press charges, you have the right to appeal against their decision to drop the case.

Can I be expelled from France for committing a crime?

Yes, although this is generally reserved for people who have committed serious crimes such as violent crime, drug-trafficking or terror offences.

If you have been jailed for a serious crime in France you can be served with an ‘interdiction du territoire français‘ – a ban from French soil – on your release. These are reserved for the most serious offences and simply being incarcerated does not necessarily lead to expulsion.

If you are a full-time resident in France but not a French citizen, then being convicted of a crime can mean that your visa or residency card will not be renewed. This is again usually reserved for people who have committed very serious crimes, but in certain circumstances residency can be withdrawn for less serious offences such as driving offences or begging. 

READ ALSO What offences can lose you the right to live in France?

If you have French citizenship it’s virtually impossible for your to be expelled from France although in some rare cases – usually connected to terrorism – citizenship of dual nationals can be revoked.

What are the rules for minors?

Minors in the French legal system have some specific rights. The EU has laid out the specific rights of minors, which apply in France as well, and apply from the time of arrest.

  • Right to be be quickly informed of legal rights, and to be assisted by your parents (or other appropriate persons)
  • Right to be assisted by a lawyer
  • No prison sentence should be imposed on a minor if they have not been assisted by a lawyer during the court hearings. All measures should be exhausted to avoid a child being imprisoned.
  • Right to be detained separately from adults if sent to prison.
  • Children should not be required “to reimburse the costs of certain procedural measures, for example, for individual assessment, medical examination, or audio-visual recording of interviews.”
  • A child’s privacy should be respected and “questioning will be audio-visually recorded or recorded in another appropriate manner.”
  • Repeatedly questioning children should be avoided.