Covid-19 epidemic: Accompanying measures taken by the French Government

Covid-19 epidemic: Accompanying measures taken by the French Government

Covid-19 epidemic: Accompanying measures taken by the French Government

Measures have been taken by the French Government to support the Companies and employees impacted by the Covid-19 epidemic. This purpose of this note is to inform you about the three main measures relating to  employment costs and employee revenues : the partial unemployment scheme, the postponement of payment of social contributions and taxes and the childcare facility for employees. 

Site closure and partial unemployment

Following the latest measures taken by the French government to deal with the Covid-19 epidemic, all shops which are not of primary necessity for daily life are closed and employees who can’t work from home can be placed in situation of “partial unemployment”. Companies may also face a temporary reduction in their activity requiring the use of the “partial unemployment” scheme.

Under this partial unemployment scheme, employees who can’t go to work because of the closure of their place of work:

  • have their employment contract suspended,
  • continue however to receive 70% of their gross salary, paid by the employer.

In all cases, the employee should receive from the employer at least the statutory mandatory minimum salary (“SMIC”). The gross hourly SMIC rate is €10,15 and the net hourly rate is €8,04.

To support employers, the Government indemnifies the employer with a flat allowance currently equal to €7,74 per hour not worked and per employee (this rate applies to companies with maximum 250 employees). Hours not worked are those up to the legal or conventional working time if lower, within an annual quota currently set at 1000 hours per year, per employee.

Please, note that in the context of the Covid-19 epidemic and according to a press release dated March 16, the Government has decided to increase  this indemnification: a decree which is still to be published should provide for reimbursement of 100% of the compensation paid to employees by employers, up to a cap of 4.5 times the SMIC. More specifically, the hourly rate of the partial activity allowance paid to the employer would be equal to 70% of employee’s gross earnings, limited to 4.5 times the SMIC.

To benefit from this allowance:

– The closure of the working place must be mandatory or justified by the current context of the Covid-19 virus.

– A request for partial activity should be made by the employer on a specific governmental website (https://activitepartielle.emploi.gouv.fr).

The decision to recognize or not the reduction/suspension of activity is normally notified to the employer within 15 days from the day of application of the request through the website. If the administration does not respond within this time period, the request is considered to be accepted. In the current context of the Covid-19 virus the Government is indicating that the processing of these requests is a priority and an answer may currently be received within a period of 48 hours.

If this request is accepted, the employer can then be eligible to the benefit of the above-mentioned allowance and will have to request reimbursement to the authorities through an on-line process within 1 year from the end of the authorized period of partial activity.

Please note that the same process through the governmental website applies for a reduction of activity/partial closure of a working place related to the virus. In such hypothesis, and within the same limits as above detailed, only the hours not worked because of this exceptional context will be taken into account for the calculation of the flat allowance paid by the Government.

The postponement of payment of social contributions and taxes

The Government also indicated that Employers facing economic difficulties due to the Covid-19 virus may be authorized to postpone all or part of the payment of social contributions that were normally due on March 15th, 2020. This postponement, which may be up to three months, will be granted without penalty.

Similar postponement can be granted for the next payments due for taxes such as corporate tax or salary tax. 

Covid-19 epidemic: when employees have to stay at home for childcare

Following the closure of schools and of childcare facilities, some employees are obliged to stay at home to take care of their children. The Government has provided information for employers impacted by this situation.

In such cases, employees may be considered as being on sick leave. A declaration should be made by the employer on the following website: https://declare.ameli.fr/ for any employee meeting the requirements below:

  1. To be parent of at least one child under 16 years old on the first day of the leave.
  2. The concerned child’s school is closed or located in certain cities. Information about the concerned cities should be available at any rectorship.
  3. The Company must not be able to establish telecommuting for such employees. Sick leave must be the only solution.

The declaration made by the employer will allow the impacted employee(s) to benefit from a sick leave for a period up to 14 days and consequently to receive a social security allowance from the first day of absence. This sick leave can be renewed for the same maximum period of 14 days, as many times as necessary.

In addition to this allowance, if the employee has the 1-year required seniority, the employer has the obligation to top up his/her salary according to a rate specified in the applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement if more favorable than statutory rate.

It being specified that only one parent can be on this specific sick leave for childcare. Consequently, a statement of honor, certifying that he/she is the only parent requesting a sick leave for childcare, must be fulfilled by the employee and must be remitted to the employer. This statement is available at the following internet address: https://travail-emploi.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/covid-19-attestation-garde-enfant.pdf 

Other specific cases:

Employees identified as high-risk contact cases or employees looking after their child/dren identified as high-risk contact case(s) by the Regional Health Agency (ARS) can benefit from a derogatory sick leave during the recommended isolation period. The Social security allowances and salary continuation provisions are identical to the above case, but a specific process applies through the ARS.

Helen Abruzzino

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