What Happens When a French Employee Takes Sick Leave?

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First, it is important to note that managing sickness absence in France differs from the UK in the following key areas:

  • Self-certification does not apply (UK employees can self-certify for the first seven days of sickness).
  • Employers cannot ask their employees to give reasons for being off sick.

Reporting sickness absence in France

There are several steps that a French employee must follow when taking sick leave.  First, they must tell their employer that they are ill as soon as possible – usually within 48 hours unless a collective agreement specifies otherwise – either verbally or in writing.   

The employee must then obtain a medical certificate (known as an avis d’arrêt de travail), which is issued and signed by a doctor, to justify their absence. 

Once obtained, the employee must send Slip Three of the medical certificate to their employer.  This confirms their sick leave dates and whether the leave is due to illness or a work-related issue (though the certificate itself is the same regardless).  As mentioned above, employers cannot ask their employees to explain why they are off sick.

The first two slips must also be sent by the employee to the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM), which is the local health insurance fund.  This process allows the employee to receive the correct compensation from the social security system, and potentially also the company and/or their insurance, during their absence from work.

In the event of an extension, the same procedure must be followed as described. 

What compensation is paid to a French employee on sick leave?

The employee is entitled to receive daily allowances (Indemnités Journalières de Sécurité Sociale, or IJSS) while on sick leave, which is usually equivalent to 50% of the employee’s basic daily wage. 

The IJSS are paid every 14 days after a waiting period of three days.  There is a maximum duration for payment following which, if they are still absent, the employee will trigger longue maladie, or long-term illness. 

It may be worth noting that the waiting period applies to each occurrence of sick leave, but does not apply if the employee returns to work for less than 48 hours between two periods of absence.  Furthermore, the waiting period tends to discourage short-term sickness absence because of its expense to the employee.

Do additional sickness payments apply?

In addition to IJSS payments, companies must guarantee their employees a complementary income during their sick leave under the following circumstances:

  • The employee has completed at least one year’s service on their first day of absence,
  • they have complied with the sickness absence reporting procedure and are receiving social security allowances,
  • they are receiving treatment in France or an EEA member state and/or,
  • an existing collective agreement provides for increased sickness payments.

What is subrogation?

Subrogation is a process by which IJSS payments are made to the company, rather than the employee (the latter occurs by default).  It allows the employer to pay the required social security allowances, plus additional compensation that will later be reimbursed under the company’s prévoyance, or insurance contract.

Requested for the entire duration of sick leave or a shorter period as required, subrogation means the employee won’t suffer any financial loss because their employer can advance payments that will be compensated directly to the company.

Can we help you navigate French employment law?

Our experienced, bilingual consultants provide bespoke HR services for clients in the UK and France.  In particular, we advise UK companies with an existing French presence, or wish to expand their operations into France.

Just like no two cultures are the same, no two businesses are exactly alike.  That’s why we’ll spend time listening to your questions and concerns before using our expertise to advise on the best way forwards.

Contact us to arrange an initial free consultation.

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