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ECONOMY

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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LIVING IN FRANCE

Traffic warnings for France ahead of holiday weekend

This weekend represents the first chance to 'faire le pont' and have a long holiday weekend - and the French seem set to make the most of it with warnings of extremely heavy traffic from Wednesday.

Traffic warnings for France ahead of holiday weekend

Thursday, May 26th marks the Christian festival of Ascension and is a public holiday in France.

More importantly, it’s the first time this year that French workers have had the opportunity to faire le pont (do the bridge) and create a long weekend.

In France, most public holidays fall on different days each year and if they happen to fall on the weekend then there are no extra days off work.

This year that happened on New Year’s Day (a Saturday) and both of the early May public holidays (the workers’ holiday on May 1st and VE Day on May 8th, which both fell on a Sunday).

READ ALSO Why 2022 is a bad year for public holidays

But as Ascension is on a Thursday, workers have the option to take a day of annual leave on Friday and therefore create a nice four-day weekend.

And it appears that many are planning on doing just that, as the traffic forecaster Bison futé is predicting extremely heavy traffic from Wednesday evening, as people prepare to make their after-work getaway and head to the coast, the countryside or the mountains to fully profit from their holiday weekend.

According to Bison futé maps, the whole country is coloured red – very heavy traffic – on both Wednesday and Thursday as people take to the roads to leave the cities.

Map: Bison futé

Meanwhile Sunday is coloured black – the highest level, meaning extremely heavy traffic and difficult driving conditions – across the whole country. 

Map: Bison futé

If you were hoping to take the train instead you might be out of luck, SNCF reports that most TGV services are sold out for over the holiday weekend. 

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