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Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for measure FR-2020-10/462 Updated – measures in France

Short-time working

Chômage partiel

Country France , applies nationwide
Time period Open ended, started on 01 March 2020
Context COVID-19
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Employment protection and retention
– Income support for people in employment (e.g., short-time work)
Author Frédéric Turlan (IRshare) and Eurofound
Measure added 10 April 2020 (updated 30 May 2022)
Related ERM support instrument

Background information

Link to case Emergency measures relating to short-time working .

The short-time working (activité partielle /partial activity or chômage partiel /partial unemployment) is a tool at the service of the public policy of prevention of economic layoffs, which allows the employer in difficulty to have all or part of the cost of the remuneration of his employees covered.

This system is an old one and is in general reactivated in times of crisis, as happened also in 2008. It is governed by Articles L. 5122-1 et seq. and R. 5122-1 et seq. of the French Labor Code.

In the context of the health crisis linked to COVID-19, the system was relaxed. The partial activity is intended for all employees who suffer a reduction in remuneration attributable to:

  • either a reduction in the working hours implemented in the establishment or part of the establishment below the legal working hours (35 hours);
  • a temporary closure of all or part of the establishment.

Requests for partial activity are made by employers if the drop in activity is caused by one of the reasons referred to in Article R. 5122-1 of the Labour Code, including circumstances of an exceptional nature, which apply in the present crisis.

During the period of partial activity:

  • The employer receives from the public authorities (Services and Payment Agency - ASP) an allowance equivalent to a share of the hourly pay of the employee placed in partial activity;
  • The employee receives a partial activity allowance from the employer in lieu of salary for the period during which the employee is placed in partial activity.

Content of measure

The short-time working scheme covers all employees of the private sector. With the new provisions adopted to cope with the COVID-19 crisis, the partial activity allowance paid by the State to the company - co-financed by the State and by the joint body that manages the unemployment insurance scheme (Unédic) - is no longer a lump sum, but is proportional to the remuneration of employees placed in partial activity.

The 'remainder payable' by the employer, i.e. the amount of the remuneration which the employer must pay to the employee, is zero for all employees whose remuneration is less than 4.5 gross SMIC (€45.68 per hour or €6,927.39 per month).

The compensation due to the employee covers at least 70% of his previous gross remuneration, i.e. approximately 84% of the net salary.

There is nothing to prevent an employer from compensating its employees in excess of 70% of gross salary if it can/wishes to do so or if a collective or company-level agreement so provides.

In all cases, a minimum of €8.03 per hour is respected.

Specific measures are planned for employees of private employers (cleaning ladies) and childcare assistants (who look after young children) who are usually paid by the hour with a job voucher system.

Updates

The following updates to this measure have been made after it came into effect.

01 April 2022

As of 1 April, by governmental decision, only vulnerable employees or those obliged to look after a child and unable to telework will continue to be entitled to full reimbursement of short-time working. In fact, all companies using this scheme are now subject to the common law rates, i.e. an allowance paid to employees corresponding to 60% of their previous gross remuneration and an allowance reimbursed to employers equal to 36% of the previous gross remuneration. In order to benefit from more advantageous rates, companies retain the possibility of implementing long-term short-time working (APLD).

17 March 2022

On 17 March, in order to cope with the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine, the government has announced that the short-time working scheme (common law) or the long-term short-time working scheme (APLD) are part of the measures that can be mobilised by employers as part of the Economic and Social Resilience Plan presented on 16 March by the Prime Minister. In a "question and answer" circular dated 17 March 2022, the Ministry of Labour details their implementation procedures. It also sent two draft texts, an ordinance and a decree, for consult social partners, to the National Commission for Collective Bargaining, Employment and Vocational Training (CNNCEFP) to adapt the APLD system.

According to the Ministry of Labour, the company that would see its activities slowed down or stopped due to the economic consequences of the conflict in Ukraine can therefore be eligible for partial activity under the "exceptional circumstances" provided for by the Labour Code. On the other hand, this eligibility does not cover a company that voluntarily closes its establishment. No mechanism for increasing the rates of reimbursement is envisaged in relation to the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine. The employees concerned will therefore receive an allowance equal to 60% of their previous gross pay, up to a maximum of 4.5 Smic and a minimum of €8.37. The allowance then reimbursed to the employer will amount to 36% of the employee's previous gross pay, up to a limit of 36% of 4.5 Smic and a floor of €7.53. The remainder borne by the company will amount to 40% of the compensation.

The company must demonstrate that there is a direct or indirect link between the consequences of the war in Ukraine and the drop in the company's activity. For example, the company can prove that the sharp increase in the price of gas or oil has had a significant impact on the company's business.

Employees with an employment contract under French law and employed by Russian, Belarusian or Ukrainian companies established in France and whose activity is reduced due to the consequences of the war in Ukraine are eligible for the partial activity scheme under ordinary law and the APLD, the Q&A states.

28 February 2022

Now that "the period of massive recourse to partial activity seems to be over", the organisation that manages partial unemployment schemes, Unédic, has drawn up a report on the state of play of partial unemployment in a study published on 28 February 2022. Unédic concludes that partial unemployment has been and "could in the future remain an important lever for supporting employment". This study underlines that it is mainly small establishments and those in the sectors most affected by health restrictions that have made long-term use of it. On the employee side, it has been widely used, but has particularly helped those close to the minimum wage and on long-term employment contracts (permanent or fixed-term contracts). On the other hand, although it welcomes "the capacity of the system to offer great internal flexibility to companies", Unédic points out that access to training is difficult during the periods of use, and that the financial cost could last.

24 February 2022

While it was supposed to end on 28 February 2022, the full coverage of short-time working in the companies most affected by the health crisis remains in force until 31 March 2022. Thus, for those companies that continue to suffer the effects of health restrictions on their activity, the compensation paid to employees in short-time working, as well as the allowance granted to the employer, will continue to be calculated at a rate of 70% of the previous gross remuneration, within the limit of a remuneration capped at 70% of 4.5 Minimum wage (SMIC) and a minimum hourly rate of €8.37.

From 1 April 2022, the common law rates will in principle apply to all companies (an allowance at 60% of the previous gross remuneration and an allowance at 36%).

28 December 2021

Most of the sectors and companies that benefit in December 2021 from full coverage of short-time working costs will continue to benefit from it until the end of January 2022, i.e. for an additional month. Two decrees of 27 December provide a framework for this extension and make a few adjustments to the partial activity scheme. Since 1 December 2021, in order to benefit from the increased rates, companies in the so called 'protected sectors' must prove a 65% drop in turnover, instead of the previous 80%. The text also authorises certain employers to use short-time working between 1 January and 31 March 2022, even if they have reached the maximum authorisation period of six months in a year.

11 November 2021

The law on various health vigilance provisions (La loi portant diverses dispositions de vigilance sanitaire) of 10 November, which notably allows the health pass to be maintained until 31 July 2022, extends until 31 July 2022 the possibility of modulating the hourly rate of the allowance and the partial activity allowance to deal with the consequences of the health crisis linked to COVID-19.

29 September 2021

A decree of 29 September 2021 raises to €7.47 the minimum hourly rate of the short-working allowance paid to the employer from 1 October 2021. It also provides for a specific floor of €8.30 for companies that continue to benefit from an increased rate of short-working allowance due to the COVID-19-related health crisis. This same minimum allowance of €8.30 also benefits employers who have implemented long-term short-working (APLD) in their company.

29 September 2021

According to the DARES-ACEMO survey, recourse to partial unemployment fell again in August: 480,000 employees were effectively in partial activity in August 2021 (i.e. 2.4% of private sector employees), after 600,000 in July, for a number of hours unemployed corresponding to 180,000 employees working full time during the month (see sources).

31 May 2021

The government is empowered, by the law of 31 May 2021 (see source section), to issue orders until 30 September 2021, in order to adapt and extend the exceptional measures taken to limit the consequences of the health crisis on employment in several areas, such as short-working scheme and long-term short-working scheme (APLD).

28 May 2021

Postponed month after month since January 2021 due to the persistence of the effects and restrictions linked to the health crisis, the reduction in the level of short-time working allowance financed by the State must begin in June 2021 as provided for in two decrees of 28 May 2021. This reduction will not lead to the application of the common law rates as of 1 June. In accordance with the government's announcements, the reduction in compensation for employees and employers will be done in stages, and in a more gradual manner in companies in "protected sectors" or undergoing administrative closures.

30 March 2021

Allowance paid to the employer

  • The rate of the allowance paid to the employer currently in force is maintained until 30 April 2021: 60% of the employee's previous gross salary, up to a limit of 60% of 4.5 Minimum wage (SMIC), with a floor of €8.11 (excluding protected sectors and companies receiving the public and closed by administrative decision, which benefit from an increase).
  • From 1 May 2021, the hourly allowance paid to the employer will be 36% of the employee's previous gross salary, up to a limit of 36% of 4.5 SMIC, with a floor of €7.30.

For employees on an apprenticeship or "professionalisation" contract, the rate of the allowance is equal to the rate of the allowance paid to the employee.

Particularities of short-time working for protected sectors most in difficulty

Employers belonging to the so-called protected sectors are considered to be in the greatest difficulty if they suffer a drop in turnover of at least 80%.

This assessment is made each month:

  • either in relation to the turnover recorded for the same month in 2020;
  • or in relation to the turnover recorded for the same month in 2019;
  • or, if the company was created after 30 January 2020, in relation to the average monthly turnover achieved between the creation of the company and 31 January 2021.

For these companies, between 1 May 2021 and 30 June 2021 the rate of allowance applicable in respect of hours of unemployment is set at 70% of hourly pay, up to a limit of 70% of 4.5 Minimum wage (SMIC), with an hourly floor of €8.11. The hourly rate of the partial activity allowance is maintained at 70% of the employee's previous gross remuneration with an hourly floor of €8.11. There is therefore no remaining cost for these employers.

Particularities for businesses that receive the public and are totally or partially closed by administrative decision

The employers concerned are:

  • Employers whose main activity involving the reception of the public is interrupted, partially or totally, due to the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic and the measures taken to limit this spread, excluding voluntary closures;
  • Employers whose establishment is located in the catchment area of a ski resort and which suffers at least a 50% drop in turnover during the period of closure of cable cars and ski lifts compared either to the turnover preceding the closure of the lifts or to the turnover of the same month in 2019.
  • In the event of new lockdown on a geographical basis, employers whose establishment is located in one of the territories concerned by the lockdown and who suffer a drop in turnover of at least 60% for each month of the geographical lockdown period.
  • Either in relation to the turnover recorded during the month preceding the implementation of these measures;
  • Or in relation to the turnover recorded for the same month in 2019.

By way of derogation, until 31 June 2021, the short-time working allowance is equal to 70% of the employee's previous gross remuneration, within the limit of 70% of 4.5 SMIC. The hourly floor of €8.11 applies. The short-time working allowance is maintained at 70% of the employee's previous gross remuneration, up to 70% of 4.5 SMIC.

The hourly floor of €8.11 applies. There is therefore no remaining cost for these employers.

10 February 2021

The possibility of modulating the partial activity allowance rate for the benefit of the companies most affected by the COVID-19 health crisis was extended until the end of 2021 by an order dated 10 February 2021. A second order of the same day also provides that the "protected sectors" that have suffered a very sharp drop in turnover will benefit from an increased rate of support from 1 March to 30 June 2021.

06 August 2020

The short-time working scheme has been progressively adapted to the health and economic situation. The main changes are the following:

  • An Ordinance of 24 June provides that the rate of partial activity allowances will be set by decree and may be increased for sectors particularly affected by the health crisis. These new rates will be applicable as of 1 June 2020 and until a date that the decree is expected to set at 30 September 2020. The increased rate applies in sectors relating to tourism, hotels, restaurants, sports, culture, air transport and events. Sectors whose activity depends on the above and which are experiencing a very sharp drop in turnover will also benefit. The same will apply to employers whose main activity involves receiving the public and is interrupted due to the epidemic. A decree allow for basic coverage of 85% of the compensation paid and an increased coverage covering these compensation payments in full.
  • The terms and conditions for implementing the partial activity system are secured and simplified by a decree of 26 June 2020. This decree allows companies with at least 50 establishments to submit a single request for partial activity (for several employees). It also confirms that prior consultation of the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) in the event of recourse to the system is only required for companies with at least 50 employees.
  • Partial activity for childcare without a school certificate. Since June 2, 2020, parents looking after a child under 16 years of age can only maintain or partially activate their childcare activities upon presentation of a certificate from the childcare establishment, according to the Ministry of Labour. It is therefore no longer sufficient for the employee, as has been the case since 1 May, to send his or her employer a certificate on honour that his or her child cannot attend school. The Ministry of Labour specifies that this certificate from the establishment will be likely to be requested in the event of an administrative control.
  • A new short-time working scheme will start on 1 October 2020 and provides for an obligation to remain in employment for the duration of the partial activity. The scheme will last three months, renewable, and may not exceed six months (maximum duration of the current scheme). The employees concerned will receive 100% of their net salary at the level of the minimum wage (Smic) at 72% for 1.3 Smic (compared to 84% since the crisis). For high salaries, a ceiling is set at 60% of 4.5 SMIC. Already reduced on 1 June, the State and Unédic allowance will amount to 60% of the compensation paid to employees, with a floor set at 90% of the minimum wage. As a reminder, the State's contribution was 100% of the allowance until 4.5 Smic at the end of March, before being reduced to 85% on 1 June.
  • A second partial activity scheme came into force on 1 July (see FR-2020-27/1030). Known as "long-term", it concerns companies facing a lasting decline in their activity, such as the aeronautics industry, in order to guarantee a high level of protection. It is for a renewable period of six months and can be mobilised for a maximum of two years, with 100% of the net salary being maintained for employees at the minimum wage and up to 84% for salaries above 1.15 minimum wage, with a ceiling of 70% above 4.5 minimum wage. The State pay 80% of the compensation paid and 85% for agreements signed before 1 October. Its triggering requires a company or branch agreement and validation by the Direccte, and will be based on a diagnosis and forecast of activity and shared employment.
03 June 2020

France’s National Assembly and Senate are close to the final adoption (by 10 June) of the emergency bill that contains new provisions for other urgent measures as well as for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. The agreement reached between the two Chambers on 02 June, which has yet to be formally adopted, empowers the Government to further adapt the short time working scheme to take account of the needs of a gradual recovery and to create a special provision for companies permanently affected by the crisis although not likely to fail.

New short time working provision based on collective bargaining and ‘quid pro quos’. A new mechanism that provides long-term support for companies in return for a set of commitments, particularly in terms of maintaining employment, is thus being planned. Both the level of compensation for employees whose activity is reduced and the level of State reimbursement have yet to be established by decree, but the idea is to increase the State element if the company, that has had to make recourse short time working to persevere through the crisis, negotiates or enters into a collective sector agreement, which not only defines the terms of the short time working, but also provides for company commitment in return, and in particular in terms of maintaining employment. This mechanism, known as ‘short time working to maintain employment’, is aimed at ‘companies faced with a lasting reduction in activity and whose survival is not compromised’, under a set of certain conditions and cases that are still to be determined. The agreement and documents implementing the sector agreement with this framework will have to be approved by the labor administration.

Short time working to be adapted from 01 June for six months to facilitate the recovery. The extraordinary short time working scheme was initially set up amid the health crisis, and has been amended several times. It may be amended once more in order to adapt it to the economic recovery and the situation of certain sectors and employees. Once adopted, the bill authorized the government to issue a new ordinance to adapt short time working rules ‘to the specificities of the companies according to the economic impact of the health crisis, their sector of activity and the categories of employees concerned (...).' Monetizing leave periods. The text also allows a collective agreement to allow for employees who have suffered a reduction in their remuneration due to being placed on short time working, to voluntarily supplement their income by monetizing rest days or paid holidays, for up to a maximum of 5 days. The agreed text also provides that employees under short time working conditions must also benefit from the maintenance of their collective guarantees and that, as an exception, the periods between 1 March 2020 and 31 December 2020, during which contributing workers received the short time working allowances, would be taken into account for the purposes of enabling the right to a retirement pension. Planet Labor, 03 June 2020, No.11981

26 May 2020

On 1st June 2020, the financial cover for partial activity (short-time work) will be changed from 70% to 60%. Even if ‘compensation paid to the employee remains unchanged’ (70% of gross salary, i.e. 84% of net salary and at least the net minimum wage), the level covered by the State and the unemployment agency will be lowered so that companies will now be reimbursed up to 60% of gross salary, capped at 4.5x minimum wage, instead of 70%. Sectors subject to special legislative or regulatory restrictions due to the health crisis will continue to benefit from 100% cover. This measure still has to be made the subject of a decree, which will be issued following adoption of a bill treating several health crisis related provisions that is currently under Parliamentary discussion. Source: Planet Labour.

Use of measure

As of April 7, 2020, 692,000 applications for partial activity have been filed. They concern 669,000 establishments and 6,300,000 employees (2.3 million more than on 31 March). About 59% of employees who have applied for partial activity since 1 March work in establishments with fewer than 50 employees. These establishments account for 34% of private salaried employment. Conversely, those working in establishments with more than 250 employees account for 15% of employees in partial activity, while these establishments account for 20% of private salaried employment.

The Ministry of Labour (DARES and DGEFP) and the public employment service Pôle Emploi have decided to update these data every weeks. The last issue of 7 April is available here .

In June 2020 According to DARES and Pôle Emploi , 4.5 million employees were in partial activity (i.e. about a quarter of private sector employees), after 7.9 million in May, 8.8 million in April1 and 7.2 million in March. Among them, in June, around 700,000 employees would have been in partial activity for childcare or because of situations of vulnerability/fragility.

As of 21 March 265,000 claims for the month of February have been filed (+60,000 in one week) by 247,000 companies. They concern 1.2 million employees and 102 million hours. For January, 310,000 claims were filed (+20,000 in one week) by 283,000 companies, for 1.6 million employees and 124 million hours.

In February 2021 2.1 million employees would have been effectively in partial activity (i.e. about 11% of private sector employees), after 2.3 million in January. The number of hours lost over the month as a result of partial activity would be 164 million in February. This would be equivalent to 1.2 million employees working full-time over the month (after 1.2 million in January and 1.1 million in December). More information available here .

26 July 2021 2.3 million employees (or 13% of private-sector employees) would have actually been in partial activity in May 2021, after 3.0 million in April 2021, a decrease of 21% over one month. This decrease is due to a lower recourse to partial activity in the public administration, education, health and social work sector (-104,000 or -65%), in business services (-97,000 or -30%), in other service activities (-79,000 or -23%), in accommodation and food services (-78,000 or -10%) and in trade (-68,000 or -12%).

In full-time equivalent (FTE) terms, the number of employees fell even more (-33%), from 1.5 million in April to 1.0 million in May: some employees were able to resume their activity after the reopening of so-called non-essential shops, the reopening of terraces and the extension of the curfew to 9 pm on 19 May. Thus, compared with April, the number of FTE employees in partial activity fell by 27% in accommodation and food services and by 43% in commerce. More information available here .

4 March 2022 According to a report by Unedic, the body that handles partial unemployment, before the health crisis, 30,000 to 40,000 employees were on partial activity each month. By April 2020, there were 8.4 million employees in almost 1.2 million establishments, compared to just over 250,000 at the height of the 2008-2009 economic crisis. The number of employees concerned has fallen sharply, to around 200,000 in October and November 2021. But Unédic stresses that, even over this period, the scheme was still between 5 and 8 times more used than before the crisis.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Employees in standard employment
Does not apply to businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Company / Companies
Public employment service
Companies
Employer
National funds
Other

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Consulted Consulted
Form Consultation through tripartite or bipartite social dialogue bodies Consultation through tripartite or bipartite social dialogue bodies

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Social partners jointly
  • Main level of involvement: Unknown

Involvement

Social partners were not consulted on the first regulations, even some could have been informed or consulted informally. However, for the last measures adopted, they were involved and consulted as usual.

Views and reactions

The works council has to be consulted before the first employee is placed in the short-time working scheme. However, in case of exceptional circumstances, the advice of the work council can be sent to the public authorities (DIRECCTE) in the two months after the start of the short-time working scheme.

Sources

  • 25 March 2020: Décret n° 2020-325 du 25 mars 2020 relatif à l'activité partielle (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 27 March 2020: Ordonnance n° 2020-346 du 27 mars 2020 portant mesures d'urgence en matière d'activité partielle (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 10 April 2020: Ministère du Travail - COVID-19 | Précisions sur les évolutions procédurales du dispositif exceptionnel d’activité partielle (travail-emploi.gouv.fr)
  • 02 June 2020: Draft law on emergency measures
  • 24 June 2020: Ordonnance n° 2020-770 du 24 juin 2020 relative à l'adaptation du taux horaire de l'allocation d'activité partielle (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 26 June 2020: Décret n° 2020-794 du 26 juin 2020 relatif à l'activité partielle (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 29 June 2020: Décret n° 2020-810 du 29 juin 2020 portant modulation temporaire du taux horaire de l'allocation d'activité partielle (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 10 February 2021: Ordonnance n° 2021-135 du 10 février 2021 portant diverses mesures d'urgence dans les domaines du travail et de l'emploi (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 10 February 2021: Ordonnance n° 2021-136 du 10 février 2021 portant adaptation des mesures d'urgence en matière d'activité partielle (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 01 April 2021: Situation sur le marché du travail durant la crise sanitaire au 29 mars 2021 (dares.travail-emploi.gouv.fr)
  • 28 May 2021: Décret n° 2021-671 du 28 mai 2021 modifiant le décret n° 2020-1316 du 30 octobre 2020 relatif à l'activité partielle et au dispositif d'activité partielle spécifique en cas de réduction d'activité durable (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 28 May 2021: Décret n° 2021-674 du 28 mai 2021 relatif à l'activité partielle et au dispositif spécifique d'activité partielle en cas de réduction d'activité durable (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 29 September 2021: Décret n° 2021-1252 du 29 septembre 2021 portant modification du taux horaire minimum de l'allocation d'activité partielle et de l'allocation d'activité partielle spécifique en cas de réduction d'activité durable (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 29 September 2021: Activité et conditions d’emploi de la main-d’œuvre pendant la crise sanitaire Covid-19 (dares.travail-emploi.gouv.fr)
  • 11 November 2021: LOI n° 2021-1465 du 10 novembre 2021 portant diverses dispositions de vigilance sanitaire (1) (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 28 December 2021: Décret n° 2021-1817 du 27 décembre 2021 relatif à l'activité partielle (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 28 December 2021: Décret n° 2021-1816 du 27 décembre 2021 relatif à l'activité partielle (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 24 February 2022: Décret n° 2022-241 du 24 février 2022 relatif aux modalités de fixation de l'indemnité et de l'allocation d'activité partielle (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 24 February 2022: Décret n° 2022-242 du 24 février 2022 relatif à la détermination du taux de l'allocation d'activité partielle (www.legifrance.gouv.fr)
  • 28 February 2022: Unedic, Activité partielle - Etat des lieux et perspectives (www.unedic.org)

Citation

Eurofound (2020), Short-time working, measure FR-2020-10/462 (measures in France), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/FR-2020-10_462.html

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