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At a time when many companies are experiencing a drop in activity related to the COVID-19 Coronavirus in particular due to the recent one-month administrative closure of most stores and activities and the prohibition of gatherings of more than 100 employees, approximately two million employees are expected to be placed on partial activity this week.

On March 9, 2020, the Ministry of Labour, while insisting that work from home is the preferred solution when the employee's position allows it, proposed examples of exceptional circumstances where partial activity would be possible in the context of the Coronavirus epidemic: administrative closure of an establishment, prohibition of public demonstrations following an administrative decision, massive absence of employees who are essential to the company's activity, temporary interruption of non-essential activities, suspension of public transport by administrative decision and decrease in activity linked to the epidemic.

The purpose of this scheme is to avoid dismissals and it is strongly recommended that companies use temporary partial activity before commencing any redundancy process. This scheme can be implemented for a period of up to six months (potentially renewable).

Partial activity can take two different forms:

  • a reduction of the employees' working time below the legal weekly working time;
  • a temporary closure of all or part of the establishment.

In case of implementation of temporary activity or temporary unemployment ("activité partielle"), employees who suffer a loss of remuneration should benefit from an allowance paid by the employer equal to at least 70% of their previous gross remuneration.

To accompany the payment of the allowance, the employer can benefit from a lump-sum allowance co-financed by the State and UNEDIC unemployment authorities which currently amounts to EUR 7.74 per hour for companies employing between one and 250 employees and EUR 7.23 for companies employing more than 250 employees. The Minister of Labour, announced that the partial activity allowance reimbursed to employers in companies with less than 250 employees should be increased by Decree to EUR 8.04. The Minister of Economy and Finances more recently indicated that the government is prepared to significantly increase this allowance.

The government has provided for a calculation tool in order to estimate the amount of the allowance that employers can obtain: http://www.simulateurap.emploi.gouv.fr/. In addition, the Minister of Labour has specified that the employer may also decide to implement State-funded training measures (FNE Formation) in order to obtain financial assistance of up to 70% of employee training costs.

From a practical standpoint, implementation of partial activity requires prior information and consultation of the Social and Economic Committee and administrative authorisation. Applications to the government scheme must be submitted on the dedicated portal (https://activitepartielle.emploi.gouv.fr/aparts/) preferably prior to putting employees on partial activity. However, the Ministry of Labour has indicated that applications for partial activity may be submitted within a reasonable period of time after the start of the requested period of partial activity. It was specified on March 9, 2020, that applications should in principle be processed urgently within 48 hours of their submission.

Find here our practical recommendations for fighting the Coronavirus epidemic in France.

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