Labour Law France – temporary unemployment for employees in France.
The French government has allowed the recourse to temporary unemployment (chômage technique or chômage partiel) for employees so as to prevent mass layoffs during the coronavirus confinement measures adopted in France as of 17 March 2020.
This article aims to reply to the main questions regarding temporary unemployment schemes under French law during the COVID-19 confinement measures.
How to request temporary unemployment?
Employers need to make an online request for the temporary unemployment of their employees with their department’s DIRECCTE office via the following website: https://activitepartielle.emploi.gouv.fr.
The request needs to clearly indicate that temporary unemployment is due to the coronavirus outbreak and employers need to specify how the epidemic has impacted their business and if the work of all or only some employees is totally or partially suspended.
Temporary unemployment requests submitted to DIRECCTE usually need to be accompanied by the prior approval of the company’s Economic and Social Committee (Comité Social et Economique (CSE)), in place in companies with more than 11 employees.
However, following the COVID-19 outbreak, ordinance n°2020-325 of 25 March 2020 allows companies to submit the CSE’s approval within two months following the request for temporary unemployment due to the coronavirus crisis.
In any event, companies without employee representatives must directly inform their employees of the temporary unemployment scheme.
Who can benefit from temporary unemployment?
Temporary unemployment can be requested for employees with a work contract, even when they are on probationary period (and the coronavirus crisis cannot justify termination of the probationary period).
This means that company directors who do not also have a work contract cannot benefit from temporary unemployment.
Employees on sick leave exceeding 30 days, should also be able to benefit from temporary unemployment if they are able to return to work during the coronavirus confinement measures, even if the mandatory medical visit cannot occur throughout such period. Employees on sick leave during the confinement measures can however not cumulate social security benefits and temporary unemployment.
In addition, individuals with non-salaried occupations in the “VRP” category (Vendeur, Représentant et Placier) may also exceptionally benefit from the temporary unemployment scheme under certain conditions.
How much are employees paid under the temporary employment scheme?
Under the temporary employment scheme, employers are required to pay employees 70% of their gross salary per hour, which corresponds to approximately 84% of their net salary per hour. Such amount can never be lower than €8.03 per hour or exceed € 31,97 per hour.
Temporary unemployment pay must clearly be mentioned in the employees’ pay slip, that is due on the usual date of payment.
Following payment to the employee, the employer is required to request reimbursement on a monthly basis. Requests must be made within 1 year following the termination of the temporary employment period. The Agence de services et de paiement, a French administrative body, makes payments to employers.
Can employers force employees to take paid leave during temporary unemployment?
Paid leave is the management decision of each employer that must follow a certain procedure. However, under certain conditions, ordinance 2020-323 of 25 March 2020 allows employers to force employees to take paid leave for up to 6 working days without following the usually applicable procedure.
In any event, employers and employees can agree on taking paid leave – even early paid leave – before requesting temporary unemployment.
How does temporary unemployment impact prior dismissed employees?
In the event of dismissal of an employee before the coronavirus confinement measures were adopted, the temporary unemployment request does not impact the duration of the notice period. The duration of the notice period can only be amended by agreement between the employer and the employee.
In addition, temporary unemployment should not impact the amounts due to the employee that has been dismissed.
How to initiate a dismissal procedure during coronavirus confinement measures?
Employees can be dismissed during the coronavirus confinement measures due to personal motives : professional or physical inadequacy, refusal of an amendment to the employment contract, misconduct…
Under article L. 1232-2 of the French employment code, employers are required to invite the employee to a meeting prior to the termination notice. If employees don’t attend the meeting, employers can pursue the procedure and give the official termination notice. In any event, not attending the meeting cannot be considered as a valid ground by the employer to lay-off an employee.
In the context of the coronavirus confinement measures, employees can request to postpone such meeting, subject to the prior approval of the employer, unless contractually provided otherwise (Cass. Soc., 28 November 2001, n° 99-46.031).
If such meetings can validly be held by videoconference remains yet to be confirmed by the French supreme court, although some lower courts have already confirmed such method. However, please note that a preliminary dismissal meeting cannot validly be held by telephone (Cass. Soc., 14 November 1991 n° 90-44.195).
This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice addressed to particular circumstances. You should not take or refrain from taking any legal action based upon the information contained herein without first seeking professional, individualized counsel based upon your own circumstances. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements.
Information by ALARIS AVOCATS, English speaking lawyers in France (Paris) specialized in French labor law, especially any kinds of Social Plans, dismissal procedures and labor contract clauses.