Under French law, the employer may place his employees in a position of partial unemployment (so called ‘activité partielle’ when the company is forced to reduce or temporarily suspend its activity for one of the following reasons:
1° The economic situation;
2° Difficulties in the supply of raw materials or energy;
3° A disaster or bad weather of an exceptional nature;
4° The transformation, restructuring or modernization of the company;
5° Any other circumstances of an exceptional nature.
The use of partial unemployment can take several forms:
- reduction in weekly working hours;
- temporary closure of all or part of the establishment.
In companies with more than 50 employees, the employer must first consult the works council (in the language of the law: the Social and Economic Committee) in order to give an opinion on:
- the justification for the partial unemployment;
- the professional categories and activities concerned;
- the level and criteria for the working time reductions;
- the training measures envisaged, or any other commitment made by the employer.
In cases where the employer was not able to consult the works council in time due to any circumstances of an exceptional nature (i.e. the Corona Crisis), he may consult the works council within 2 months after the implementation of the partial unemployment.
Before the implementation of the partial unemployment, the employer must request authorization by the Regional Directorate for Enterprises, Competition, Consumer Affairs, Labor and Employment (DIRECCTE) in the department where the concerned establishment is located.
The application must specify:
- the reasons justifying the use of the partial unemployment ;
- the foreseeable period of the partial unemployment ;
- the number of employees concerned.
It must be accompanied by the opinion of the Social and Economic Committee (SEC), if required.
In the absence of a reply within 48 hours, the authorization shall be deemed to have been granted.
Once the administrative authorization has been obtained, whether express or tacit, the employer may put in place the partial unemployment. It is this authorization that enables him to obtain (a partial) reimbursement of the allowances paid to employees.
In cases where the employer was not able to request the authorization in time due to any circumstances of an exceptional nature (i.e. the Corona Crisis), he may file the request within 30 days after the implementation of the partial unemployment.
The partial unemployment permit is granted for a maximum period of 12 months, which may be once renewed. In addition, the employer may receive the partial unemployment allowance up to a maximum of 1,000 hours per year and per employee (in 2020 1,607 hours), regardless of the professional branch.An employee placed in partial employment receives an hourly allowance, paid by his employer at the usual pay due date, corresponding to 70% of his gross hourly pay (i.e. approximately 84% of the net hourly wage). However, the allowance is limited to 70% of 4,5 times the legal minimum wage (corresponding currently to 10,15 € gross).
Once the partial unemployment is granted, the employer will then have to request, on a monthly basis, the reimbursement of hourly allowance for the working hours that the concerned employee did actually not work.