The bill will cover all freelance, contractors, self-employed and small business owners and provides financial help if their business is struggling or fails.
It creates a single status for self-employed workers which distinguishes between their professional and personal assets, while – in theory – it becomes easier for independents to access state benefits if their business fails or is in trouble, recognised as a rising problem as many small businesses have struggled during the pandemic.
A compromise agreed in joint committee prior to the final votes meant the bill was passed unanimously in the Senate and the Assembly, with MPs from the left of the political spectrum abstaining from the vote, claiming its measures were “insufficient”.
When the long-awaited law comes into force in about three months, independent workers’ personal assets will be exempt from seizure in the event of bankruptcy – currently only their principal residence is protected.
However, Assembly rapporteur Marie-Christine Verdier-Jouclas warned: “We should not expect miracles, because the most important creditors, including banks, will continue to require special securities on certain assets of entrepreneurs, including their personal property.”
Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said: “We expect banking institutions to take all responsibility in the implementation of this reform. We will be very vigilant.”
Meanwhile, the €800-a-month allocation des travailleurs indépendants (ATI) allowance will be extended to include any, “total and definitive and definitive cessation of activity that is not economically viable”.
“To estimate whether the activity is not viable, we will look if it has a drop in income of at least 30 percent,” Lemoyne said.
Created in 2018, the ATI is an alternative to unemployment benefits and is paid for six months. It is currently only available to self-employed persons in receivership or liquidation. The government estimates that nearly 30,000 self-employed people could benefit from the ATI each year under the new rules, compared to about 1,000 currently.
According to a study by the Association pour le droit à l’initiative économique (Adie), 93 percent of self-employed entrepreneurs consider it “urgent” that their social rights are more closely aligned with those of employees. About 59 percent want unemployment rights as a priority and 49 percent want better coverage of professional risks.
At the end of January, the government announced additional financial aid for certain categories of self-employed workers affected by the health crisis.