Unemployment Benefits in France

  1. Registration with Pôle emploi
  2. Export of Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  3. Business Start-Up Support
  4. Rules on Unemployment Benefit

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, existing rights have been extended at least until 31st July 2020. There is no need for beneficiaries to take any action, although as normal you need to notify Pôle Emploi of your situation each month, either on-line or by ringing 3949.

The government have also put in place a job retention scheme, which we cover in our article Job Retention Scheme.

4. Rules on Unemployment Benefit

Unemployment benefit in France is called l’allocation d’aide au retour à l’emploi (ARE), or, less formally, allocation chômage.

I. Conditions of Entitlement

Since November 2019, both salaried persons and business owners are entitled to unemployment benefit, although the latter under strict rules of entitlement, which we consider separately at Unemployment Benefits for Business Owners.

As a salaried employee, if you lose your job you do not automatically have a right to unemployment benefit. You will need to meet certain conditions.

Those conditions are that:

  • You did not leave your job voluntarily;
  • You have worked for at least six months;
  • Be registered as a job seeker with Pôle emploi;
  • Be physically capable of work;
  • Be actively searching for work;
  • Not be in receipt of a full State retirement pension.

There are situations where those who have resigned can still retain a right to unemployment benefit. A summary is given below, but detailed conditions apply.

  • Spouse gets a job in another region of the country;
  • Marriage or civil partnership, in which the new couple change their place of residence, which must take place within two months of each other;
  • Having lost a job, another job immediately found, from which the person resigns within 91 days;
  • Resigns from one job to take another, which employer ends within 91 days (provided three years paying unemployment contributions);
  • Where the person had at least 5 years employment with their last employer and they resign to start a business;
  • Other unspecified legitimate reason.

Those whose contract is terminated or naturally comes to an end, and who receive a lump sum severance payment, must wait 6 months before they can be entitled to unemployment benefit. A rule that concerns primarily senior managers.

II. Duration of Benefits

The right to unemployment benefit is based the amount of time you have been employed.

The following table shows the minimal period of period of employment, and the maximum period of cover.

Age Minimum Period of Employment Maximum Duration of Benefits
Up to 52 Years 6 Months during the last 24 months 24 months
53-54 Years 6 Months during the last 36 months 30 months
55+ Years 6 Months during the last 36 months 36 months

The duration of benefits for those aged 53-54 increases to 36 months if the applicant undergoes a training course.

The minimum six-month period of employment need not be continuous.

It is also possible to 'roll-over' unused entitlement if you obtain employment prior to using current entitlement, but then subsequently find yourself unemployed. It is called droits rechargeables. To benefit from a recharge, you must have worked a minimum of six months since your last period of unemployment.

III. Level of Benefit

The level of unemployment benefit you receive is calculated with reference to your previous salary.

Broadly speaking, your benefit entitlement is a percentage of a reference daily rate, called salaire journalier de référence (SJR). The SJR is calculated from your previous salary, excluding any redundancy payment or other indemnities you may have received.

Thus, if you earned €20,000 in the previous 12 months, then the SJR would be €20,000/365 days = €55 per day.

You would then be entitled to either 40.4% SJR + €12 per day (2019), or 57%, whichever was produced the larger amount.

The minimum amount payable is €29.26 per day and the maximum amount cannot be greater than 75% SJR up to a max of €248 per day. However, if you are on a training course prescribed by Pôle emploi the minimum is €20.81 per day. (2019)

If the monthly salary was less than €1,186, then you are entitled to unemployment benefit equal to 75% of your previous gross salary. Those with a salary greater than €4,500 gross per month have their benefit reduced by 30% from the seventh month, subject to a minimum benefit of €2,261 per month. However, this reduction does not apply to those 57+ years of age.

Those who become unemployed as a result of redundancy are entitled to enhanced benefits, and there are also particular rules for seasonal workers and those in the entertainment industry.

In addition, an unemployed person who takes part-time work or a contract of short duration can continue to be entitled to receive some of their benefit.

IV. Other Benefits

In the event that your unemployment benefit does not reach a minimum level, then it is possible to obtain entitlement to other benefits, such as Revenu de Solidarité Active (RSA), as well as housing benefits.

There is also entitlement to free health cover through the Complémentaire Santé Solidaire - CSS.

V. Social Security Contributions

Unemployment benefits do not entirely escape liability to social security contributions, in particular the cotisations sociales CSG and CRDS.

The rate of CSG is 6.2% and the rate of CRDS is 0.5% on 98.25% of the benefit.

There is complete exemption from these charge where the cotisations sociales in total or in part reduce the net level of the benefit to less than €51 a day (2019) a figure related to the minimum wage.

Neither are social charges payable if income in the reference year was below €11,128 (2019) for a single person, a threshold increased by around €3,000 for each addition half-part.

A reduced rate of 3.8% applies for those whose taxable income in the reference year was between €11,128 and €14,548 for a single person, a threshold increased by around €3,000 for each addition 'half-part'.

The 'reference year' for the income test are two years previously, ie for 2019 it is your income for 2016 as notified on your 2017 tax notice.

CSG is deductible against income tax at the rate of 3.80%, assuming you pay income tax.

A social security contribution of 3% of the SJR is levied to finance the complementary retirement pension, except where it would reduce the benefit to below €29.26 per day.

No health contributions are payable, except in Alsace-Moselle, where they are levied at the rate of 1.6%, except for those below the above income thresholds.

VI. Payment of Unemployment Benefit

Unemployment benefit is not offered immediately at the end of an employment contract.

There are two different points of departure.

First, there is a delay of seven days (délai de carence) except for those who become unemployed again within twelve months of first becoming unemployed.

The 7-day period may be extended, related to the payment by the employer for paid leave not taken before departure, as well as a delay due to any compensation package that might have been received at the end of the contract.

Once payment starts it is then paid every month.


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