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Living in France

Sick Leave and Disability Benefits in France

Getting sick is always annoying and a little worrying — even more so if you are working in another country. Fortunately, expats in France are usually entitled to paid sick leave until they’re back on their feet. This article has all you need to know about benefits in case of sickness or disability.

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At a Glance:

  • After a minimum period of employment or amount paid in social security contributions, employees in France are generally entitled to paid sick leave.
  • To go on sick leave, you need an official doctor’s note.
  • The French social security system also includes extended sick leave for serious and prolonged illnesses, as well as pensions and other benefits for people with disabilities.

Bon rétablissement! — Feel better soon!

The French social security system offers some financial support to those who temporarily can’t work due to an accident or illness. Employees in the private sector usually join an insurance scheme called the Assurance maladie (sickness insurance). It is organized by the employee’s Caisse primaire d’assurance maladie (CPAM), their healthcare and social security provider.

Funding for the Assurance maladie comes partly from government subsidies, but mostly from regular contributions from both employers and employees. These are automatically deducted from their salary or wages, just like all other cotisations sociales (social security contributions). An employee contributes just 0.75% of their gross earnings, while their employer pays 13.14%.

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Are you entitled to paid sick leave?

In case of sickness or an accident that occurred outside the workplace, every employee can take paid arrêt maladie (sick leave). This also applies to foreign residents working in France.

If the absence is due to a work-related accident or an occupational illness, the employee has the right to paid sick leave; however, the administrative steps are different. This article only covers regular sick leave that’s unrelated to work.

To be entitled to paid sick leave for up to six months, you need

  • to have worked for at least 150 hours in the last 90 days before falling sick
  • or to have paid social security contributions based on gross earnings equivalent to 1,015 times the minimum hourly wage (9.76 EUR in 2017) in the last six months before your illness.

You can also be on sick leave for up to twelve months, but only if you have

  • worked for at least 600 hours in the last twelve months before falling sick
  • or paid social security contributions based on gross earnings equivalent to 2,030 times the minimum hourly wage (9.76 EUR in 2017) in this period.

In either case, you need to bring an official sick note from your doctor.

How much will you receive in benefits?

If you meet the above criteria, you can claim indemnités journalières (benefits) from your CPAM (healthcare and social security provider).  Although indemnité journalière literally translates as “daily compensation”, these benefits are paid every other week.

Paid sick leave benefits usually amount to 50% of your average daily salary in the three months before you became ill, up to a maximum of 43.80 EUR per day. For employees with three or more children, this sum is raised to 67% of their average wage after 30 days, with a cap of 58.50 EUR per day.

However, anyone may receive more than the customary 50% right from the start: if you have worked for your current company for longer than a month and notify your employer in time (i.e. within 48 hours), your benefits will be raised to 90% of your gross income. After 30 days of sickness, this amount will be lowered to 67%. If your job is covered by a collective agreement or if your employer has included a more generous clause in the employment contract, you might even receive full compensation (i.e. 100% of your salary).

Please note: Sickness benefits are still subject to both social security contributions and income tax. For prolonged and serious illnesses (affectation de longue durée), however, you may be granted an income tax exemption.

How you long can you be on sick leave for?

As mentioned above, the duration of your paid sick leave depends on how long you worked for or how much you earned in the three to twelve months before falling ill. The arrêt maladie ranges from six to twelve months. It is normally capped at 360 days within three years; however, in the case of severe and prolonged illness, you can be granted paid sick leave for up to three years.

No matter how long it takes you to get back on your feet, you can’t be fired because of your illness. However, the company is legally allowed to terminate your contract in the following cases:

  • Your illness impacts your general ability to work in your current position. You are also deemed medically unfit for any rehabilitation or reintegration measures the company might reasonably take to accommodate you.
  • Your continued absence causes significant disruption to the company, and your employer is therefore forced to look for a permanent (rather than temporary) replacement.

Moreover, being on arrêt maladie won’t protect you from getting fired if the company has financial difficulties or if you already were in trouble for misconduct before calling in sick.

What steps should you take if you fall ill?

First, see a doctor — either your médecin traitant (primary care physician or general practitioner) or a specialist they recommend — and get an official sick note. You’ll normally receive three copies: send two to your CPAM (healthcare and social security provider) and one to your employer within the next 48 hours. Nowadays, copies for the CPAM are often transferred electronically by your doctor’s office.

As long as you are on official sick leave, you are legally required to stay at home from 9:00 to 11:00 and from 14:00 and 16:00 every day, except for doctor’s appointments and medical treatments. You can even be subject to visits from or interviews by the Assurance maladie if they suspect you’re just skipping work.

How does this affect expats with temporary permits?

If you have a temporary residence permit that is tied to your job, regular sick leave (e.g. if you have broken your leg or caught the flu) shouldn’t affect your ability to renew it. However, if you are struggling with a serious and prolonged illness or if you might become temporarily or even permanently disabled, you shouldn’t take any chances — get legal advice when your residence permit will soon be up for renewal.

If your residence permit isn’t linked to your job, you probably have nothing to worry about. For example, if you have come to France because of family ties to another expat or a French national, your permission to legally reside in France doesn’t depend on your ability to hold down a specific job, so it shouldn’t be affected by illness or disability.

Updated on: December 12, 2019
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