Coronavirus: Over 10 million French workers placed on ‘partial unemployment’

More than 10 million employees in France have been placed on "partial unemployment", the labour minister announced on Wednesday.

Coronavirus: Over 10 million French workers placed on 'partial unemployment'
Photo: AFP

“This morning there are 10 million employees whose salary is paid for by the state because they are on partial unemployment, ” said minister Muriuel Pénicaud.

The government's “chômage partiel” scheme has been described as the most generous in Europe and is aimed at avoiding companies laying off staff en masse.

The government has stumped up billions of euros to cover 84 percent of salaries of those on partial unemployment.

Around 820,000 employers, or more than six in 10, have applied for the social security scheme.

Pénicaud described the number of 10.2 million workers on the scheme as “considerable”. It equates to over half of the workforce in the private sector.

“We have never done this before in our country,” Pénicaud told BFM TV.

The minister also added that there had been a huge fall in recruitment in France and everything would depend on how quickly the economy could relaunch once lockdown ends. 

President Emmanuel Macron vowed that “no company would be abandoned to the risk of bankruptcy” when announcing the widespread business closures and stay-at-home orders implemented on March 17.

His government last week raised its economic relief package to €110 billion and extended the temporary layoffs programme to individuals who employ nannies or cleaners who can no longer come to work.

Penicaud said entire sectors of the economy have effectively been shut down, with nine out of 10 workers in hotels and restaurants as well as in construction now unemployed.

“It will be a difficult year for employment,” said Pénicaud.

The government will begin easing lockdown restrictions on May 11th.

What is 'chômage partiel' and how do I claim it?

Only employees on fixed-term contracts – both longterm contracts type CDI or shorter periods of type CDD or CDU or even internships – can get 'partial unemployment' remuneration. Pigistes, freelancers, are not mentioned on the pôle emploi's website dedicated to the coronavirus crisis, however worker's unions have said those working as pigistes also should be considered by the measure.

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, not all employees belonging to a company that filed for chômage partiel would have access to this type of financial protection.

France’s government has now revised the system so that employees on a one-year contract are also included.

“Employees on a daily and hourly rate for a year can now benefit from partial activity benefits in the event of a reduction in their work schedule and in the event of the total closure of the establishment,” France’s Labour Ministry website reads.


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‘Serious malfunctions’ at French research unit headed by Didier Raoult

A criminal investigation is set to begin into the Marseille research unit headed by controversial scientist Didier Raoult, after a report found "serious malfunctions".

'Serious malfunctions' at French research unit headed by Didier Raoult

The findings of the joint investigation into the IHU at Marseille by the Inspection générale des affaires sociales (IGAS) and the  l’Inspection générale de l’éducation, du sport et de la recherche (IGESR) prompted Health Minister François Braun and Research Minister Sylvie Retailleau to refer the unit to the city’s public prosecutor, urging it to investigate “serious malfunctions” at the institution.

Raoult was head of the unit from its foundation in 2011 until his retirement this summer.

The controversial microbiologist gained significant worldwide attention during the Covid-19 pandemic for his vociferous promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, despite a lack of evidence on its effectiveness.

READ ALSO Five minutes to understand: Whatever happened to French professor Didier Raoult?

He was succeeded as director by Pierre-Edouard Fournier.

The ministers said that a number of issues highlighted in the latest report are “likely to constitute offences or serious breaches of health or research regulations”.

Fournier, and the institute’s seven founding members – including the University of Aix-Marseille, Assistance Publique-Hospitals de Marseille, the Research Institute for Development or the army health service – will now be summoned by their supervisory bodies to “implement a proactive action plan as soon as possible” which “will condition the continuation of the activity of the IHU-MI and its funding by the State”, according to the joint communiqué of the ministers.

The IHU was already under judicial investigation for “forgery in writing”, “use of forgery in writing”, and “interventional research involving a human person not justified by his usual care without obtaining the opinion of the committee for the protection of persons and the authorisation of the Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé (ANSM),” the Marseille prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

In an earlier report, the ANSM had noted “serious breaches of the regulations for research involving humans”, during some clinical trials.

READ ALSO Maverick French Covid doctor reprimanded over ‘breaches’ in clinical trials

François Crémieux, the director of Marseille public hospitals, told local newspaper La Provence on Tuesday that the establishment “shares the observation of managerial excesses of certain hospital-university managers occupying key functions within the infectious diseases division”.

“The legitimacy of the IHU has been affected. It has lost its scientific credibility. It must now be regained. 800 highly skilled professionals work there every day,” he added.

Raoult bit back at the report in a tweet, saying: “I regret that the IGAS/IGAENR mission does not take into account the detailed legal and scientific response that I have provided”.

Separately, Raoult will be in court on Friday as his defamation case against Karine Lacombe, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Sorbonne University Faculty of Medicine, comes before judges.