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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Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).