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Presentation of the French short-time work system (“activité partielle”)

Conditions and eligibility


Short-time work allows the employer, when it faces exceptional circumstances such as current pandemic, leading to decreasing its activity under 35 hours a week or even to a temporary closure, to ask for a special indemnification from public authorities to cover the costs of unworked hours

Conditions of short-time work

Short-time work can only be implemented by the employer if the company has no other choice than reducing or suspending temporarily its activity for one of the following reasons listed by law (Article R.5122-1 of the French Labour Code):

  • The economic situation;
  • Difficulties in the supply of raw materials or energy;
  • A disaster or bad weather of exceptional character;
  • The transformation, restructuring or modernization of the company;
  • Any other exceptional circumstances.

This ground is the one that is used in the context of COVID.

However, we believe that Labour Administration will have a close look at this: the current health crisis will not per se be enough to justify the use of short-time work. That is why, employers must be able to prove the concrete reasons justifying why they cannot maintain their activity (e.g. supply difficulties, significant number of absent employees…).

Eligible employees

Any employee having an employment contract subject to the French Labour Code can benefit from the short-time work mechanism, even if the employee works part-time or under a fixed-term employment contract.

In principle, some employees cannot benefit from this scheme, such as regulated sales representatives (so-called “VRP” with a “multi-cards” status), employees with a French employment contract working on sites located abroad or employee whose contract was suspended before the beginning of the short-time work period (due to sickness, maternity leave…).

Procedure before the French Administration

STEP 1:  consultation of the staff representatives/Social and Economic Committee (SEC) or – in the absence of SEC – information of employees.

STEP 2: the employer submits its request of authorization to the Administration on the following website: https://activitepartielle.emploi.gouv.fr/aparts/

In principle, the request is made for a predictive period of under-activity of 6 months max. However, in the COVID context, short-time work can be requested for a 12-month period.

STEP 3: acknowledgement of receipt by the Administration of the employer’s prior request

In principle, the Administration has a 15-day delay to deliver its decision. However, in the context of COVID, this delay is reduced to 2 days.

STEP 4: instruction of the company’s request.

STEP 5: decision of the Administration. If the Administration does not give an answer within 2 days, it is deemed to accept the employer’s request.

Compensation of short-time work

Employees receive an hourly compensation for unworked hours. The indemnity corresponding at least to 70% of their gross remuneration is paid by the employer to employees (free of social security contributions). To this end, employees do remain on payroll. Then, the employer gets compensation from the State for the sum paid to its employees (with a cap of 4.5 times the minimum statutory wage). For employees earnings max 4.5 times the statutory wage (i.e. employees earning 4.5 times the statutory wage or less), the cost is thus of 0 for the employer.

Employers should check applicable collective bargaining agreements are some provide for a higher compensation in case of short-time work.

Situation of the employee on short-time work

Concerned employees cannot refuse to be placed on short-time work, except for employees’ representatives. Indeed, the employer must request their prior written consent considering it is not possible to modify their working conditions without their agreement.

During the short-time work period, employment contracts are suspended. However, employees remain subject to their loyalty obligation. Besides, the total number of unworked hours in respect of short-time work is taken into account for the calculation of the vesting of paid leaves.

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