What parents in France need to know about school closures and the help they can get

As schools in France stayed closed on Tuesday as part of the third nationwide lockdown measures that took effect this weekend, many parents will be left juggling work and childcare. Here's a look at the help that is available.

What parents in France need to know about school closures and the help they can get
French school children are working from home this week, just like they did back in the spring of 2020. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

“We will close crèches, schools, and high schools for three weeks,” French President Emmanuel Macron said during a live speech on March 31st where he announced new measures to halt the spread of Covid-19 across the country.

These are the dates to look out for:

Monday, April 5th – a week of distance learning for all schools

Monday, April 12th – the start of the two-week Easter holiday for all schools, across all areas (a change in holiday dates for most schools)

Monday, April 26th – return of in-person infant and primary classes – secondary and high schools to continue with distance learning

Monday, May 3rd – secondary and high schools return to in-person classes

The help parents can get

Parents who are unable to work while their children are out of school will qualify for temporary work furlough or financial aid, the president promised.

“All the measures currently in force will be extended,” Macron said.

A public scheme providing aid to parents whose children’s school or class closed has been in place since September 1st 2020

Parents or guardians can ask to be placed on partial leave or to get an arrêt de travail (doctor’s certificate) for the time they need to be absent from work.

However what parents are entitled to depends on their job and household situation.

Here’s an overview:

Private sector employees who cannot work remotely

Employees in the private sector who are not able to work from home can get on the chômage partiel (furlough) scheme. The scheme remains in place for parents who have to stay home with their children due to Covid, however there are a few catches to receive this aid. Firstly, both parents or guardians have to be unable to work from home (unless they are a single parent). Secondly, the employer has to be the one stating that the employee is needed in the office, as the Education Ministry confirmed to French daily Le Parisien.

Thirdly, the child in question must be either under 16 years old or disabled.

The parent set to take care of the child also has to provide their employer with a written statement confirming that the school or class has closed, OR a document from the Assurance maladie social security service stating that the child is considered a Covid contact case.

Lastly, the parent has to write an attestation sur l’honneur – that specific French legal form where you swear on your “honour”, more information HERE – that they are the only parent asking to benefit from this aid. 

If all this is done correctly, the employee will be declared as furloughedwhich means that the state pays 84 percent of their salary (100 percent for employees on the minimum wage). The scheme begins on the first day of the arrêt de travail and can last until the last day of the child’s isolation period or when the school or class reopens, as applicable.

Private sector employees who can work remotely

Parents who are employees in the private sector and who can work from home are in a less protected situation.

They can get a doctor’s certificate for time off work in order to take care of a small child, although there are no rules regulating the age of the child or circumstances here. It is really up to the employer, so parents finding themselves in this situation will have to negotiate with their boss directly.

Self-employed and freelancers

Self-employed, small business owners and freelancers may also get a doctor’s certificate in order to stay at home and claim compensation of their salaries these days. Again, this goes for those with children either under the age of 16 or with disabilities.

This group includes independent agricultural workers, nannies, artists, independent health workers, people working on a contractual basis for the public sector and others – full list on the government’s website HERE.

Parents in this situation need to make a request online via the Caisse nationale de l’Assurance maladie (CNAM), link HERE, or via the Mutualité sociale agricole (MSA), link HERE.

Two-parent families may share the leave between parents if they wish. They will need to provide a document confirming the closure of the school or class, OR that their child is considered a contact case. 

Self-employed people without a fixed salary may apply for the Solidarity Fund, the government’s scheme that gives out grants to the self-employed whose revenues have dropped due to Covid-19. The amounts self-employed people are entitled to depend on their type of business and how much income they have lost. Full details on the government’s website HERE.

EXPLAINED: The economic help schemes that businesses and the self-employed in France can now benefit from

Public sector employees 

Parents who work in the public sector can get a so-called ‘special authorisation of absence’ (ASA), which reimburses them 100 percent for the days concerned. Only one parent per household can get this support, and only if the child is younger than 16 years old or disabled.

In order to benefit from the scheme they have to provide their employer with two documents: a letter from the school stating that their child has to stay home and an attestation sur l’honneur declaring that they are the only one asking to benefit from this support for the days concerned.

For more information, visit the government’s website, link HERE.

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Life in France: 5 plants that (allegedly) repel mosquitoes

Summer in France brings lots of good stuff and some deeply annoying things, like mosquitoes. But did you know that there are plants that you can add to your garden or balcony that will repel these deeply unwelcome visitors?

Life in France: 5 plants that (allegedly) repel mosquitoes

If you’re one of these people who are attractive to mosquitoes then you’ll know the misery of spending the summer covered in itchy red lumps – and the bad news is that the rising global temperatures mean that ‘mosquito season’ in France now lasts longer.

It’s a common problem and in the summer French florists and garden centres often sell ‘anti-moustique‘ plants.

We’re not promising a 100 percent repellent rate, but these are some plants that apparently help.

In good news, most of them are small enough so that you can grow them on your balcony or in a window box if you don’t have a garden.  

Mint (menthe)

A common herb that many people might already have in their gardens, but mosquitoes apparently hate the lovely, fresh scent of mint.

And even if it fails to ward off the bugs, at least you can use the leaves to garnish food or make a nice big jug of Pimms (which might distract you from your horrible, itchy bites).

READ MORE: France’s most toxic plants and berries to watch out for

Marigolds (Rose d’inde, sometimes known as Souci)

These are a popular choice to add a touch of colour to a window box or balcony, as well as to a garden, and have the added benefit of warding off mosquitoes.

Gardeners like them because can boost the growth of other plants when planted together.

Rosemary (romarain)

Another aromatic herb that humans love and mosquitoes apparently hate.

If you’re planting it in the garden use a container because it has a tendency to spread and take over your garden. If you don’t want to grown it, or don’t have the space, you can always add a couple of sprigs to your grill when barbecuing to help keep the mosquitoes away as you dine outdoors.

Lemongrass (citronelle)

You’ll certainly be aware of citronella scent from various mosquito-repelling products including oils and candles, but you can also grow it in the your garden.

It grows quite big so might not be suitable for small gardens or window boxes.

Even if it doesn’t succeed in keeping insets away, you can use it in cooking to add a lemony flavour.

Wormwood (absinthe)

The final one on the list is usually said to be the most effective, but should be used with caution as it is toxic if eaten.

You can grow it in your garden or in a window box, but take great care that it doesn’t end up with your edible herbs as it will make you sick – if you have a garden when children or animals are present then it’s probably best to avoid this one altogether, but on the plus side its pungent scent will keep mosquitoes away.

As the French name suggests, wormwood is one of the main ingredients in the drink Absinthe and is what gives it the distinctive green colour.

Legend has it that wormwood is the active ingredient that makes people hallucinate after drinking absinthe, but in fact the drink is not hallucinogenic and never was. It is extremely strong though, which might explain some of those ‘visions’!

Other tips

Mosquitoes like to hang out and to breed in water or long grass, so you can help keep them away by eliminating their favourite spots. For example;

  • Keep lawns trimmed
  • Eliminate sources of stagnant water eg old plant pots that collect rainwater
  • Keep your gutters clear
  • If you have a pond consider installing a small fountain or pump, as mosquitoes usually won’t lay eggs in moving water