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WORKING IN FRANCE

Working in France: How to get financial aid while setting up a new business

If you're working a 9-5 job but have dreams of going freelance or setting up your own business, you could get financial help from the French state while you establish yourself. Here's how it works.

Working in France: How to get financial aid while setting up a new business
Do you dream of setting up on your own? The French state could help you. Photo by Chris DELMAS / AFP

Setting up on your own is a dream for many people, but it can be difficult to leave the security of a regular pay-packet.

But if you’re in France, you could be entitled to financial aid when you are getting your new enterprise off the ground, giving you a cushion that will allow you to pay the bills and focus all your energy on establishing yourself.

There are, however, some conditions and the system itself is quite complicated.

Here’s how it works: 

What?

The Aide au retour à l’emploi (ARE) system means you can leave your job and have a go at something new while receiving monthly payments from Pôle Emploi (the unemployment office).  

You claim the standard chomage (unemployment benefit) and whatever income you make from your new business or freelance enterprise is deducted from the monthy payment, so that in total your monthly income would be the same as if you were unemployed. This can continue for up to two years.

In France benefits are worked out based on your former salary, so the amount you get depends on what you were earning previously.

Who?

This is only available to people who have previously been salaried employees in France.

It’s not limited to French citizens only, but you need to have been an employee, which means you must be a full-time resident in France with a visa/residency card if appropriate.

You must have worked for a minimum of 88 days (or 610 hours) in the last 28 months.

How

There are quite a few conditions attached to this and it’s complicated so if you’re thinking of doing this, it might be a good idea to go in advance to your local Pôle emploi office and check that you fulfill all the criteria.

The key thing is the manner in which you leave your job. 

Normally, you wouldn’t qualify for benefits if you voluntarily resign, but there are some exceptions to this:

  • You have to follow your spouse after he/she moved to another region for professional reasons
  • You are obliged to move because you are the victim of domestic violence
  • Your employer has not paid you for several months
  • You are a victim of moral or sexual harassment or assault at work
  • You have a serious and credible plan for changing careers

It’s the last one of these that affects people setting up on their own, and the plans must be “serious and credible” – so you will definitely need a proper business plan in place.

The next thing to do is to approach your employer and request a rupture conventionelle.

What is a rupture conventionnelle?

This is for workers who are on a CDI (a long-term contract). It does not apply to the CDD (short-term contracts), stage (internships) or alternance (work-study arrangements).

You and your employer make the decision to part by mutual agreement – it’s the equivalent of a ‘no fault divorce’ and unlike dismissal or a resignation, what matters is that both of you agree to the terms and any compensation.

There are certain advantages to an employer of a rupture conventionelle – they are not required to make any kind of payment as in a redundancy situation and by agreeing to this you sign away your right to compensation for unfair dismissal.

However the employer still has the right to refuse.

Next step

Assuming your employer agrees, you will sign a contract setting the terms of the rupture conventionelle and you will be given documents such as a certificate of employment, a form filled for the attention of Pôle emploi and the total balance of your benefits and income earned over your period of employment.

You will need to show all these documents at the Pôle emploi.

The next step is registering for benefits.

You have to wait 7 days before you can register at the Pole emploi either online or in person in your local branch.

Once you have successfully registered using the rupture conventionelle – and informing your advisor that you want to take advantage of the ARE scheme – you will start receiving monthly benefits.

You must agree to inform Pôle emploi of all income related to your new business/freelance career and this is deducted from the payments your receive.

You can continue with this for two years, which should give you time to get yourself established in your chosen field while continuing to pay the bills and feed the kids/pets/yourself.

What else?

As well as registering with the benefits office, you will also need to register your new business.

For small businesses or individuals working freelance, the most common way to do this is through the micro-entrepreneur scheme – this offers a simplified regime for people or businesses earning less than a certain amount – full details HERE.

For freelancers there is also the EURL (entreprise unipersonnelle à responsabilité limitée) or the SASU (société par actions simplifiée unipersonnelle) which allow you to reduce the tax base by deducting charges without being subject to a limit on earnings. 

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For members

PROPERTY

MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

While French cities such as Paris are notoriously expensive, there are many areas outside the cities where it is still possible to buy spacious homes for less than €100,000 - particularly if you don't mind a bit of renovation.

MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

We decided to look at where in France you could afford a property on a budget of €100,000, and it turns out there are some bargains to be had.

There are a lot of caveats while searching for property, and many local variables in place, but our search does show some of the areas to concentrate on if you have a limited budget.

We used the Notaires de France immobilier website in August 2022, and we specified that the property should have at least five rooms (including kitchen and bathroom) and a floor space of at least 100 square metres.

We also discounted any property that was for sale under the viager system – a complicated purchase method which allows the resident to release equity on their property gradually, as the buyer puts down a lump sum in advance and then pays what is effectively a rent for the rest of the seller’s lifetime, while allowing them to remain in the property.

READ ALSO Viager: The French property system that can lead to a bargain

For a five-room, 100 square metre property at under €100,000, you won’t find anywhere in the Île-de-France region, where the proximity of Paris pushes up property prices. The city itself is famously expensive, but much of the greater Paris region is within commuting distance, which means pricier property. 

Equally the island of Corsica – where prices are pushed up by its popularity as a tourist destination – showed no properties for sale while the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – which includes the French Riviera – showed only 1 property under €100,000.

The very presence of Bordeaux, meanwhile, takes the entire département of Gironde out of this equation – but that doesn’t mean that the southwest is completely out of the running. A total of 25 properties came up in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region. One property was on the market for a mere €20,000 – but it was, as the Notaires’ brochure noted, in need of “complete renovation”.

Neighbouring Occitanie, meanwhile, showed 12 further properties in the bracket.

By far the most properties on the day of our search – 67 – were to be found in the Grand Est region of eastern France. The eastern part of France overall comes out best for property bargains, with the north-east region of Hauts-de-France showing 38 properties and and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté displaying 25.

Further south, however, the presence of the Alps – another popular tourist destination – pushed up prices in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region which showed just three results.

The below map shows our search results, with darker colours indicating more cheap properties.

Property buying tips 

In order to make a comparison, we focused our search on properties advertised online, but if you have a specific area in mind it's well worth making friends with a few local real estate agents and perhaps also the mayor, since it's common for properties not to be advertised online.

Most of the truly 'bargain' properties are described as being "in need of renovation" - which is real estate speak for a complete wreck.

If you don't mind doing a bit of work you can often pick up property for low prices, but you need to do a clear-eyed assessment of exactly how much work you are willing and able to do, and what the cost is likely to be - there's no point getting a "cheap" house and then spending three times the purchase price on renovations.

READ ALSO 'Double your budget and make friends with the mayor' - tips for French property renovation

That said, there were plenty of properties at or near the €100,000 mark that were perfectly liveable or needed only relatively minor renovations.

You also need to pay attention to the location, as the sub-€100,000 properties are often in remote areas or very small villages with limited access to amenities. While this lifestyle suits many people, bear in mind that owning a car is a requirement and you may end up paying extra for certain services.

Finally remember that government help, in the form of loans and grants, is available for environmentally friendly improvements, such as insulation or glazing.

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