Covid-19 – Health and Safety Protocol, Partial Activity, Apprenticeship Financial Aid, Solidarity Fund, Fixed Costs

 

To follow up on our previous newsletters, please find below information related to the following topics:

 

1 Updates of the health and safety protocol in companies

2 Update on partial activity regime

3 Apprenticeship financial aid

4 Solidarity fund

5 Coverage of fixed costs

6 Support for the payment of social security contributions

7 Launching a transition fund

8 Participatory recovery loan and stimulus bonds

 

1 Updates of the health and safety protocol in applicable in companies

The health and safety protocol was successively updated by the Ministry of Labor on August 9 and 30, as well as on September 10, 2021.

You will find below a summary of the main contributions.

 

End of compulsory telework

As of September 1, 2021, there is no longer a minimum number of days for telework. The employer is free to set them.

For jobs where telework is not possible, part of the activities can still be arranged remotely.

 

Integration of provisions on the health pass and vaccination

The company health and safety protocol also includes a new title dedicated to the health pass and completes the provisions on vaccination to integrate the new elements resulting from the law of August 5, 2021 on health crisis management.

 

Circumstances requiring the application of the health pass

Since August 30, 2021, staff working in places, establishments, services or events listed in article 1 of the law on the management of the health crisis of August 5, 2021 must present a health pass.

 

This applies to staff working in certain large shops and shopping centers of more than 20,000 m². Therefore, the health pass cannot be imposed on staff working in shops that do not meet this criterion.

 

However, the following persons are not subject to the obligation:

  • If they intervene outside spaces accessible to the public or outside public opening hours;
  • In case of urgent interventions;
  • For delivery activities.

 

Penalties for not presenting the health pass

If an employee subject to the obligation to hold a health pass fails to present evidence to his or her employer, several steps can be successively considered:

  • He may take days of leave or time off with the agreement of his employer;
  • The employer notifies him of the suspension of his employment contract by any means;
  • An interview takes place at the end of the third day following the suspension to examine ways of regularizing the situation with the person concerned.

 

As a reminder, the dismissal of an employee for not presenting a health pass is not allowed.

For more information, we invite you to consult the Q&A document prepared by the Ministry of Labor.

 

Clarification of the management of symptomatic persons

A clarification was added to the protocol on August 9, 2021, regarding the management of symptomatic individuals.

From now on, whenever possible, an antigenic screening test can be carried out immediately by an authorized professional equipped with the appropriate protection.

If this is not possible, the person concerned should be asked to undergo a diagnostic test as soon as possible.

 

Outdoor social events

The possibility of organizing convivial moments without a maximum size is maintained by the protocol, as well as the recommendation that they be held in outdoor spaces.

 

Exemption from wearing a mask

Due to the obligation to present a health pass in the establishments, services and events concerned, the wearing of a mask is no longer required for:

  • Persons accessing the institution; and
  • Professionals who intervene in them.

 

However, the operator or organizer may choose to make the wearing of a mask compulsory.  Similarly, such a decision may be taken by a departmental prefect if local circumstances justify it.

 

2 Update on partial activity regime

The partial activity regime as defined by decree no. 2020-810 of June 29, 2020 has been subject to several modifications following decree no. 2021-674 of May 28, 2021, supplemented by order no. 2021-1241 of September 22, 2021, decree no. 2021-1252 of September 29, 2021, decree no. 2021-1383 of October 25, 2021 and decree no. 2021-1389 of October 27, 2021.

 

To date, and subject to subsequent decrees, the rates are determined as follows:

 

For unprotected sectors

The hourly rate of the allowance paid to these companies is 36% of the previous gross remuneration, capped at 36% of 4.5 SMICper hour, for the hours lost in September and October 2021. It should be noted that since October 1, 2021, due to the increase of the SMIC, the hourly floor has risen from 7.30 to 7.47 euros.

From November 2021, this rate of 36% will be maintained for companies in unprotected sectors, except for employers of employees who are unable to continue working (childcare and vulnerable persons, as detailed below).

 

Concerning the protected and related sectors of Annexes 1 and 2

The hourly rate of the allowance paid to these companies is set at 70% of the previous gross remuneration, capped at 70% of 4.5 SMIC, for hours worked from September to December 2021 included. The hourly floor of 8.11 euros in force until September 31, 2021 has been raised to 8.30 euros from October 2021. These employers do not have to pay any remaining expenses.

 

Employers of employees who are unable to continue working (childkeepers and vulnerable persons, as detailed below) also continue to receive this hourly rate of benefit.

 

As a reminder for companies in protected and related sectors:

  • Annex 1 covers the sectors most affected by the crisis: tourism, hotels, restaurants, sport, culture, passenger transport, events ;
  • Annex 2 covers activities related to those in Annex 1. This includes, but is not limited to :
    • retail stores located in an international tourist zone,
    • the manufacture of lace and embroidery,
    • the dressmakers,
    • the manufacture of work clothes,
    • the manufacture of ceremonial clothing, glove and headgear accessories and costumes for major events,
    • the manufacture of knitwear.

 

The activities included in Annex 2, which are considered to be most in difficulty, are those whose employers belong to the so-called protected sectors, and which suffer a fall in turnover of at least 80% during the period between March 15, and May 15, 2020.

 

In addition, this decrease in turnover is assessed either:

  • In relation to the turnover recorded during the same period of the previous year; or
  • If they so wish, in relation to the average monthly turnover for the year 2019 over two months; or
  • For employers of structures created after March 15, 2019, in relation to the average monthly turnover over the period between the date of creation of the structure and March 15, 2020, averaged over two months.

 

Childcare in the event of the closure of a class or positive children to Covid-19

Parents may receive increased compensation for childcare under a derogatory work stoppage or partial activity in cases where:

  • Their child tests positive for Covid-19; or
  • If there is a class closure due to Covid-19 cases.

 

In an FAQ, the Ministry of Labor provides details of the amounts received.

 

For the month of October 2021, employees receive an allowance of 70% of 4.5 SMIC with a minimum of approximately 8.30 euroswhich will continue from November 1, 2021.

The allowance received by the employer is equivalent to 70% of 4.5 SMIC with a minimum of 8.30 euros since October 2021.

 

Vulnerable people

The national health protocol includes an appendix dedicated to the placement of vulnerable people in partial activity and specifies the various measures to be implemented.

In application of decree n° 2021-1162 of September 8, 2021, in force since September 27, 2021, the partial activity scheme is maintained for vulnerable persons who cannot work remotely.

 

These employees will be eligible for compensation if they meet one of these three conditions:

  • To justify a criterion of vulnerability to Covid-19 listed in the aforementioned decree and to be assigned to a work positionfor which the employer cannot implement reinforced protective measures, and which exposes the professional to high viral densities;
  • Be affected by a severe immunodepression;
  • To justify a criterion of vulnerability to Covid-19 and a contra-indication to vaccination.

 

People who are affected by one of these conditions will have to present their employer with a certificate of isolation issued by a general practitioner or an occupational physician.

 

The isolation certificate between May 2020 and August 2021 is no longer valid, so a new certificate is required.

The hourly rate of the partial activity allowance applicable to vulnerable employees is 70% of 4.5 SMIC with a minimum of 8.30 euros for the month of October 2021 and which is also applicable from November 2021.

The allowance received by the employer is equivalent to 70% of 4.5 SMIC with a minimum of 8.30 euros from October 2021.

 

3 Apprenticeship financial aid

An exceptional aid for apprenticeships was introduced from July 1, 2020 as part of the French recovery plan “1 jeune, 1 solution” by the decree no. 2020-1085 of August 24, 2020.

 

Since September 6, 2021, this aid has been extended until June 30, 2022.

As a reminder, the amount of this aid is 5,000 euros for an apprentice under 18 years of age and 8,000 euros for an apprentice over 18 years of age.

 

4 Solidarity fund

The government announced on August 30, 2021, that the solidarity fund would be discontinued from October 2021.

However, the solidarity fund will still be available for the months of August and September 2021.

 

For the month of August

Companies eligible for this aid are, in particular, companies which :

 

  • were created before 31 January 2021
  • belong to the sectors S1 or S1bis
  • have benefited from the solidarity fund for the month of April or May
  • have recorded a 10% loss of turnover in August AND
  • a loss of turnover of at least 80% during the first lockdown, for businesses set up before 1 March 2020 OR
  • a loss of turnover of at least 80% during the second lockdown OR
  • a loss of turnover of at least 10% between 2019 and 2020, for businesses created before December 1, 2019

 

  • The aid is equal to 20% of the loss of turnover, capped at 20% of the reference turnover or 200 000 euros.

 

The form for the month of August is available since September 15. Applications can be submitted until October 31.

 

For the month of September

Companies meeting the criteria mentioned for the month of August (the 10% loss of turnover being assessed over the month of September and not August) AND having achieved at least 15% of the reference turnover in September are eligible.

  • The aid is equal to 20% of the loss of turnover, capped at 20% of the reference turnover or 200 000 euros.

 

Details of this scheme can be found here.

 

5 Fixed costs

The decree no. 2021-1338 of 14 October 2021 extended the fixed costs scheme until September 30, 2021 under the eligibility conditions previously in force but no longer applies to the “shopping center” scheme (retail store located in a shopping centre of more than 20,000 m²). The eligible companies may submit their applications within 45 days of the payment of the solidarity fund aid for the month of September 2021.

As a reminder, details of this aid for previous months can be found in our previous newsletters and here.

From October 1, 2021, the fixed cost scheme will take over from the solidarity fund. The companies concerned are those in sectors S1 and S1bis whose activity is affected by the health restrictions.

In order to benefit from this scheme, companies will no longer need to have a minimum turnover of one million euros (the details of the criteria will be specified by decree).

The aid covers 70% of operating losses for companies with more than 50 employees and 90% of operating losses for companies with less than 50 employees.

 

6 Support for the payment of social security contributions

The aids for the payment of social security contributions have been discontinued as of August 31, 2021 due to the normalisation of the labour market.

However, the aid remains available for the months after August 2020. Since 1 August 2021, new applications for exemptions and aid for the payment of social security contributions for these periods are no longer subject to the ceiling of 1.8 million euros. The details of this exemption remain to be specified.

As a reminder, the details of this scheme can be found here and on the urssaf website.

 

7 Launching of a transition fund

The government announced on 27 September 2021 the launch of a €3 billion euros transition fund to support companies affected by the crisis. This fund will mainly target mid-sized and large companies in all sectors (except the financial sector).

Eligible companies will have to prove that they have financing or balance sheet strengthening needs that cannot be met by the schemes already put in place by the State. Moreover, companies will have to prove the sustainability of their business model.

The fund is managed by the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Recovery. Applications for funding can be sent by e-mail to fonds.transition@dgtresor.gouv.fr. More information here.

 

8 Participatory recovery loans and stimulus bonds

As part of France’s recovery plan implemented by the Government, some companies can benefit from participatory loans and and stimulus bonds.

Participatory recovery loans are distributed by credit institutions and allow for the sustainable financing of investment operations and development projects.

The stimulus bonds are a long-term business financing scheme that aims to support the companies’ balance sheet to enable them to continue investing in their development. They will be distributed by management companies.

These schemes are reserved for SMEs or ETIs registered in France, which have development prospects but whose balance sheet structure has been weakened by the crisis. They will be granted to viable companies with a turnover of more than 2 million euros.

The participatory recovery loans and stimulus bonds have a term of 8 years and can be combined.

These two instruments will be distributed until the end of June 2022: the loans are already available, while the stimulus bonds will be launched in the fall.

To find out more about the participatory loans scheme and eligibility criteria, please refer to the Q&A published by the Ministry of the Economy.

All the measures part of France’s recovery plan for businesses are available here.