The rules governing the right to unemployment benefit in France have recently been changed.
To be eligible for unemployment benefit you need to have worked for a minimum of four months over the previous 28 months (36 months for those 50+ years of age).
Those registered unemployed elsewhere in the EU can also obtain unemployment benefit in France for at least three months, on the basis that they are relocating to France to find work.
You will need to complete a form E303 from your home country, prior to leaving for France.
The duration of the benefit is then directly proportional to the period of employment.
A minimum of four months employment grants a right to four months unemployment benefit, although if you have had at least two months employment in the last 28 months you are eligible to a one-off payment of €500.
The duration of the benefit then rises on a scale directly related to your period of coverage, to a maximum of two years unemployment benefit for those less than 50 years of age.
For those 50+ years of age, the maximum duration of cover is 36 months, provided you have been in employment for at least three years.
Periods of employment need not be continuous.
Unemployed persons of at least 60.5 years of age in receipt of unemployment benefit continue to remain entitled until they reach the age of 65 years. The minimum age rises to 61 years in 2010.
The rate of unemployment insurance contributions is 4% for the employer and 2.4% for the employee.
If you run a business in France, and become involuntarily unemployed, you have no right to unemployment benefit. Neither do you pay insurance contributions towards unemployment. However, there is an entitlement to sickness and disability benefits.
'Reasonable' Offer of Employment
Under the new rules, those in receipt of unemployment benefit are now required to search more actively for work, for which they receive (at least in theory!) more personalised support.
Nevertheless, the law grants an exemption to the obligation to search for employment for those receiving benefit and aged at least 58 years in 2009, an age minimum that will rise each year for the next three years.
These age limits are lower for those not in receipt of unemployment benefit, granting in 2009 an exemption to those of at least 56 years of age.
The law has also introduced the concept of a ‘reasonable offer’ of employment against which your eligibility to continue to receive unemployment benefit will be assessed.
An offer will be considered 'reasonable' if it proposes 95% of your previous salary after three months unemployment, and 85% of previous salary after six months unemployment. After a year, the offer will only need to be at the level of your unemployment benefit.
There is also a geographic dimension to the test of whether the offer is ‘reasonable’. After six months unemployment the offer is considered reasonable if it is within 30 kilometres, or 1.5 hours by public transport from your home.
If the claimant refuses two reasonable offers their right to benefit is terminated.
Level of Unemployment Benefit
The level of unemployment benefit varies according 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.
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 + €10.93 per day, or 57.4% SJR, whichever was the larger figure.
The minimum amount payable is €26.66 per day, and the maximum amount cannot be greater than 75% SJR.
Those who become unemployed as a result of redundancy are entitled to enhanced benefits, and there are also particular rules for seasonal workers.
These rights apply equally to those from the EU, and anyone else legally resident in the country, as much as they do to French nationals.