Parental leave and closures: What happens if there is a Covid-19 outbreak in French schools?

French schools have now returned in full after the long summer break, but despite a slew of health measures in place there is still the possibility of Covid-19 outbreaks. So what happens if cases are detected in schools?

Parental leave and closures: What happens if there is a Covid-19 outbreak in French schools?
French pupils in the classroom on the first day of school. Photo: AFP

French schools returned on September 1st with all pupils expected to attend.

A slew of health rules were put in place, including masks in the classroom for all pupils over the age of 11.

READ ALSO These are the health rules in place as French schools return

But in spite of all the precautions, cases of Covid-19 in schools are likely to happen.

So what happens if a pupil or staff member tests positive?


Parents have been asked to give an undertaking that they will not send their child to school if they have a cough or a fever.

If a child develops these symptoms while at school they will be isolated from the class until their parents or carer can arrive to take them home. Children over the age of six will have to wear a mask while they are waiting to be picked up (normally only children aged over 11 wear masks to school).


Children with symptoms must remain at home until they have had the results of a Covid-19 test and any child who tests positive will have to observe the 14-day quarantine at home.

Cleaning and tracing

If any child or staff member tests positive, the school must thoroughly disinfect any areas they have been in and create a list of all the people that person has been in contact with. The list is then sent to health authorities, who will contact everyone on the list and invite them for testing.



The school and the local health authority together will then take a decision on what needs to be closed – whether this is just one class or the entire school.

The Education Ministry says it wants schools to remain open as far as possible, but each decision is taken on a case-by-case basis by local authorities and depends on the spread of the virus, the level of contact, the layout of the school buildings and many other factors.

Parental leave

Probably the key question for any parents whose children are sent home from school – are you entitled to time off work to look after them? 

Government spokesman Gabiel Attal told France Info on Tuesday that: “Parental leave will be possible in case the class or school is closed.”

However there is no formal framework in place for this at present and he went on to say: “We will propose, I imagine, at the local level, solutions. We will not leave the parents without solutions. We give guarantees to the parents.

“There will be solutions that will be proposed”.


If a class or school is closed, teachers will be expected to put in place distance learning solutions in the same way that they did during the lockdown, so parents trying to work at home while also looking after their children can take small comfort from knowing that the kids will at least have some schoolwork to be getting on with.

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France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body outlined how Covid-19 rules changed starting on February 1st, including an end to compulsory self-isolation after a positive test result.

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

Starting on February 1st, Covid rules relaxed in France as the country brought an end to compulsory isolation for those who test positive for the virus.

However, those travelling from China to France will still be required to agree to a random screening upon arrival and to isolate in the case of a positive Covid-19 test result. Travellers aged 11 and over coming from China must also provide a negative test result (less tan 48 hours) prior to boarding and those aged six and over must agree to wear a mask on board flights. These regulations – which was set to last until January 31st – is set to remain in place until February 15th.

The French public health body (The Direction générale de la santé or DGS)  announced the change on Saturday in a decree published in the “Journal Officiel” outlining the various ways the body will loosen previous coronavirus restrictions.

READ MORE: What Covid rules and recommendations remain for visiting France?

Those who were in contact with someone who tested positive – ie a contact cases – will also no longer be required to take a test, though the public health body stressed that both testing after contact and isolating after receiving a positive test remain recommended.

Previously, even asymptomatic people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 were required to test on the second day after being notified that they were a “contact-case”.

These changes took effect on February 1st.

READ MORE: What changes in France in February 2023?

The DGS also said that website SI-DEP, which records test results, will remain in operation until June 30th, however starting in February it will only collect personal data with the express permission of the patient.

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Additionally, the French government announced that sick leave procedures for people with Covid-19 would return to normal starting February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 now also have the three-day wait period before daily sick benefits are required to be paid, as is usually the case. Previously, people with Covid-19 could expect daily sick benefits to begin at the start of their sick leave period (arrêt maladie in French).  

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in France compares to other countries in Europe

Covid tests are still available on walk-in basis from most pharmacies are are free to people who are fully vaccinated and registered in the French health system. Unvaccinated people, or visitors to France, have to pay up to a maximum of €22 for an antigen test of €49 for a PCR test. 

If you recently tested positive for Covid-19 in France – or you suspect you may have contracted Covid-19 – you can find some information for how to proceed here.

In explaining the changes that began at the start of February, the French public health body also noted a drop in Covid-19 infections in the past month. As of January 30th, approximately 3,800 people in France had tested positive in the previous 24 hours for the coronavirus – which represents a decrease from the averages of 20,000 new cases per day about one month ago.