France urges firms to make use of Covid-19 help schemes to avoid layoffs

France's prime minister on Monday called on companies to negotiate part-time work deals with their employees on the state-funded help scheme 'chomage partiel' to avoid outright layoffs as the Covid-19 crisis hammers the economy.

France urges firms to make use of Covid-19 help schemes to avoid layoffs
The French economy is still reeling after closing down for nearly two months this spring. Photo: AFP

“I strongly encourage you to sign a massive number of long-term partial activity agreements within sectors and companies, and very quickly, between now and November 1st,” Jean Castex said during a visit to a factory east of Paris.

For companies that sign up to the scheme known as chômage partiel (partial unemployment), the government will pay 93 percent of an employee's net salary even if they are no longer working full time. The scheme is scheduled to run at least until next summer.

EXPLAINED: This is France's new plan to help workers and self-employed

The government has already spent billions of euros to keep paying most of the salaries for people who otherwise would have been dismissed during the coronavirus lockdown from March to May this year, and the subsequent business slump.

The goal is to limit unemployment that is expected to reach 9.5 percent by the end of 2020 after 715,000 jobs were lost during the first half of this year.

France has plans to spend a further €100 billion to help the economy recover, but “this will work depending on one single condition: your total mobilisation,” Castex said.

READ ALSO: How France's €100 billion economic rescue plan could impact you

Already 345 part-time agreements have been signed between employers and staff bodies since March, saving 50,000 jobs overall, according to the labour ministry. 

“These accords also allow you to organise professional training for your teams when they are unemployed,” Castex said.

The government estimates the economy will contract by 11 percent this year, though Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has hinted that officials are preparing to release a less pessimistic number this month.

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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.