What are your employment rights in France if you are in a Covid-19 high risk group?

What are your employment rights in France if you are in a Covid-19 high risk group?
Photo: AFP
If you're among those considered to be at high risk if you contract Covid-19, these are your rights regarding your return to the workplace, working from home, partial unemployment and more.

Am I a person at high risk?

If you fall into this category, you’re probably aware of the criteria already.

People over 65, pregnant women in the third trimester of pregnancy, those with chronic diseases or a weakened immune system due to a history of cardiovascular problems, diabetes, obesity, chronic respiratory pathologies, cancer and other serious medical conditions, are all considered to be high risk.

That’s the list provided by France’s Healthy Ministry on May 5th, not meaning that the people it concerns have a higher chance of developing life-threatening conditions as a result of getting Covid-19.

What should I do if I am in this category?

The French government is currently advising, although not ordering, all those in high risk groups to continue to self isolate as much as possible.

High-risk workers who don't wish to return to their workplaces and who are unable to work from home can continue to receive the chomage partiel benefit, but will have to provide their employer with a home-isolation certificate.

You can ask your doctor for this home-isolation certificate.

If you were on special leave in March and April as you were unable to work from home, France’s Assurance Maladie (Health Insurance) should have sent you this certificate in May already but if not it's available at ameli.fr.

People who live with a high-risk person, or a person with a disability who is the subject of a home-isolation measure, also benefit from the same provisions as people at high risk.

So can I continue working from home as a high-risk worker?

Yes. In fact the government continues to recommend home-working as desirable for everyone who can, but particularly for those in high-risk groups.

President Emmanuel Macron reiterated in his June 14th speech: “We need to get our economy back on track by continuing to protect the most vulnerable.”

If you have an isolation certificate and your employer decides they want you to physically return to work, they will be liable in the event that you fall ill.

Do I still have the right to partial unemployment benefits if I can’t work from home?

Employees in France who aren’t able to work from home due to the nature of their work can currently benefit from the partial unemployment scheme (chomage partiel), provided that they present their home-isolation certificate to their employer.

This system guarantees employees will receive 100 percent of their wages if they are on minimum wage.

If the salary is higher than the minimum wage, the employee receives at least 70 percent of their gross salary, or around 84 percent of their net salary. 

It’s up to the employer to decide whether they pay the rest of their employees’ monthly remuneration.

READ MORE: Chômage partiel – What you need to know about France's crisis unemployment scheme

Since June 1st, companies in France will only be reimbursed 85 percent of the amount of state compensation paid to employees who were eligible for chomage partiel, compared to 100 percent during the height of France's lockdown.

In other words, employers will have to pay 15 percent of the compensation paid to their employees who are not working.

Until when will this partial unemployment cover last?

According to a decree implemented on April 25th, partial unemployment for people who are at high risk for Covid-19 will be valid “until a date fixed by decree at the latest on December 31st 2020”.

As of June 18th, this decree is yet to be issued, so “vulnerable workers” can continue to claim partial unemployment.

These measures only concern private sector employees who fall under the general social security system, those working in the the agricultural sector or a special social security system.

“Civil servants and contractual agents who under public law are not working for these same reasons may continue to be compensated under the same conditions as today until the end of the state of health emergency”, France’s service-public.fr website states .

How about self-employed workers who are high risk?

Self-employed workers, artists, musicians and self-employed agricultural workers are excluded from the partial unemployment scheme.

However, since May 1st high-risk self-employed workers can request a work stoppage or sick leave for a maximum duration of 21 days, in accordance with the evolution of the French government's confinement measures.

READ MORE: All you need to know about financial help in France for self-employed and business owners

France’s Assurance Maladie is responsible for the payment of the self-employed person's daily allowances on the basis of their declared income.

This declaration or its renewal must be made via declare.ameli.fr , declare.msa.fr or by seeing your local doctor.

What about teachers and parents who are at high risk?

On Monday June 22nd all children must once again attend school full time.

This poses a dilemma for parents and teachers who are in the high-risk group, with many “vulnerable” educators likely to refuse to return to their workplaces.

The same applies to high-risk parents who are fearful their children will bring Covid-19 home with them if they go back to school.

But the French government has so far not specified what it plans to do with this group, not even in its new health protocol presented on Tuesday, June 16th

France’s Minister of National Education Jean-Michel Blanquer told France Info that this question is currently the subject of discussions with teachers’ unions and parents' associations.

In another interview with Europe 1, Blanquer said that although returning to school was compulsory, authorities would not fine high-risk parents who refused to let their kids go back.

“School principals won’t chase up the parents, they won’t waste their time keeping track of absent pupils or putting the matter up to a disciplinary board,” Jean-Rémi Girard, president of the National Union of High Schools and Colleges (SNALC), told LCI.

“At best they will call the parents on the first day of the child’s absence from school, they will agree on a reason why, and it will stop there.”

It remains to be seen whether a medical certificate will be required to exempt certain students and teachers.

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