The French Social Security System V - Unemployment insurance

2019

N.B.: To learn about the numerous changes that have been made to the French unemployment insurance system as of November 1st, 2019, please refer to Unédic's website.

The unemployment insurance scheme is the product of a negotiated agreement between the two sides of industry (national and multi-industry employers' and employees' organizations).

The government then approves the agreement if it is pursuant to applicable law. This approval makes the agreement officially enforceable.

The Unemployment insurance system applies to metropolitan France, the overseas Departments, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, and Monaco. It does not apply to Mayotte, which has its own system.

Organizational structure

The public employment service is organized around two bodies: the bipartite body UNEDIC (National Professional Union for Employment in Industry and Trade), which will continue to perform its task of administering the unemployment insurance scheme and organizing the benefits payment system, and the service for jobseekers ("Pôle emploi").

Pôle emploi brings all employment services under a single body, with a single point of contact for registering, counseling, training, placing and paying benefits to jobseekers.

Financing

The unemployment insurance scheme is financed through contributions paid on earnings: subject to the limit of 4 times the monthly social security ceiling (€13,508 in 2019). As from January 1st, 2019, only employers contribute into the employment insurance scheme. Employee's contributions have been ended, except for short-term contract workers in the entertainment industry (“intermittents du spectacle”), salaried workers in Monaco, and some expatriate employees.

Unemployment contributions are paid to the competent collections agency as determined by the workers' local authority: Urssaf in metropolitan France and the general social security fund (CGSS) in France's overseas departments.

Applicability

The scheme is applicable to all employees of companies in geographical areas covered by the agreement.

Benefits

The amount and duration of benefit payments depend upon the period during which the claimant has contributed to the scheme and total contributions paid.

Eligibility requirements

To qualify for unemployment benefit (Return to employment benefit or ARE), the claimant must meet the following requirements:

  • have involuntarily lost their job (termination by the employer, the end of a fixed-term employment contract or an assignment contract, termination by mutual agreement or resignation for a valid reason),
  • be physically fit for work,
  • Register as a jobseeker with "Pôle emploi" within 12 months of losing their job and be actively seeking employment,
  • be able to document at least 4* months of salaried employment over the previous 28* months, or over the previous 36 months for jobseekers who were at least 53 years old at the time they became unemployed,
  • be below the age and required number of quarters for entitlement to a full-rate retirement pension,
  • reside in the geographical area covered by the Unemployment insurance program: Metropolitan France, overseas departments (except for Mayotte), Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, Saint-Barthélemy, Saint-Martin, and Monaco.

*For periods of unemployment beginning on or after November 1st, 2019, a minimum of 130 days or 910 hours of work (equivalent to 6 months) is required over a benchmark period of 24 months. The benchmark period that applies to employees ages 53 or above remains unchanged (36 months).

Unemployment benefits can be stopped if claimants fail to meet their obligations by:

  • being unable to document their job searches,
  • refusing a reasonable job offer on 2 occasions,
  • missing appointments scheduled by Pôle employ,
  • refusing to enter a training program, etc.

Benefits can be stopped for a period of 1 to 4 months, depending on the reason. Payments can be permanently stopped if the claimant declares false information.

As of November 1st, 2019, employees who resign can draw unemployment benefits if they have a documented career change plan. This plan must consist of either creating or taking over a business, or completing a training program. Benefits, which are calculated on the basis of prior wages, can only be awarded to applicants with at least 5 consecutive years of salaried employment who requested career counseling through the official "CEP" program prior to their resignation. Applicants are also required to have their career change plan approved by a regional board and to register with the French unemployment agency "Pôle emploi" within the 6-month period following approval of their plan. To learn more.

Replacement income

Unemployment benefits are subject to social security surcharge (CSG) and Social security debt reimbursement contribution (CRDS) withholdings.

The return-to-work allowance ("Aide au retour à l'emploi"/ ARE) guarantees replacement income to eligible employees who have been involuntarily deprived of a job.

“ARE” rates are calculated partly on the basis of a daily reference wage (SJR). The reference wage is based on gross earnings subject to contributions during the 12 calendar months prior to the last day of paid work (calculation reference period/ “PRC”) up to a limit of 4 times the monthly social security ceiling (€13,508). It is calculated as follows:

*The weighting factor of 1.4, or 7/5, is used to convert the number of days worked to calendar days.

SJR = Reference salary/ Number of days worked during the calculation reference period X 1.4*)

The daily ARE rate is equal to the highest of the following amounts:

  • 40.4% of the SJR + a set amount (€12)
  • 57% of the SJR.

This amount cannot be below €29.26 or exceed 75% of the SJR.

As of November 1st, 2019, unemployment benefits are capped after 6 months of payment. This means that claimants whose benefits are calculated on the basis of a gross monthly wage of more than €4,500 will see a 30% drop in their entitlement, which cannot be reduced to less than €84.33 per day. This measure does not apply to jobseekers who are over age 57.

Effective date and length of award

Payment begins on the day following the waiting period and any deferred compensation period(s).

  • The waiting period is 7 days long. It applies to all unemployment insurance compensation and is in addition to any:
  • Deferral for "paid vacation", calculated based on the "paid leave" compensation that is paid at the end of the employment contract,
  • "Specific" deferral, calculated based on "non-statutory" (higher than the legal minimum) termination compensation which is paid when an employment contract is terminated. This deferral is for a maximum of 150 days, 75 days when the employee has been laid off for economic reasons).

The duration of benefit payments is based on the principle of "a day of work equals a day of compensation". The days of work that count toward eligibility are multiplied by 1.4 in order to determine the payment period.

Payment cannot be made for under 122 days or more than:

  • 730 days (24 months) for persons under age 53,
  • 913 days (30 months) for persons between the ages of 53 and 55,
  • Or 1094 days (36 months) for persons ages 55 and above (age is calculated as of the date the employment contract was terminated).

Return-to-work incentive measures

Roll-over entitlements

This program allows a jobseeker who is receiving unemployment benefits to take one or more jobs and perform a total of 150* hours or more of work without losing the entitlements s/he had acquired at the time of his/her first application for benefits. This means that the jobseeker can add the new entitlements earned from a short period of employment onto the entitlements that had not been used when employment was resumed.

*If the applicant's last employment contract ends after November 1st, 2019, they will only requalify for unemployment benefits once they have accrued 6 months (910 hours or 130 days) of additional employment.

Ability to choose between old and new entitlements

Under certain conditions, and as an alternative to roll-over benefits, individuals can choose to receive the benefit to which they are entitled based on their latest period of employment without having to first use up their unused entitlements from a previous period of unemployment. This opportunity can arise when a jobseeker receiving benefits begins a new job that is better paid than the one that entitled him/her to the initial benefits. If the jobseeker uses this ability to choose, s/he permanently gives up any remaining benefits resulting from a previous ARE entitlement in order to draw new entitlements at a higher rate.

For more information, visit the UNEDIC website.

Earning a salary while receiving unemployment benefits

It is possible to receive return-to-work (ARE) benefits at a partial rate on top of earned income, with no consideration for the number of hours worked.

Benefits paid if a salary is being earned at the same time are calculated as follows:

  • Benefits that would be due without employment – 70% of the gross monthly salary earned from the new employment.

However, this amount is capped: it must not exceed the claimant's daily reference salary (“salaire journalier de reference”/ SJR).

More information is available on the UNEDIC website.