By Alix Combes, Firm: Capstan

Under measures that took effect on 1 November, resigning employees will be entitled to unemployment benefits to fund a professional retraining or reorientation project, subject to conditions. This article sets out details.

The reform of unemployment benefits was initiated in the ‘Law for the Freedom to choose a Professional Future’ of 5 September 2018, which resulted in two decrees:

  • Decree No. 2019-797 of 26 July on the unemployment insurance scheme specifies the new rules for unemployment benefit payment.
  • Decree No. 2019-796 contains new rights to compensation, various measures relating to unemployed workers and new obligation for unemployed workers to document their job search.

Presented by the government as a reform ‘for employment, against unemployment and against insecurity’ the main objectives are as follows:

  • to transform the support of the unemployed to provide faster, more effective and more personalised support; and
  • transform unemployment insurance to encourage people to return to work, taking into account the differences in situations between individuals while empowering everyone, and above all companies, to fight against insecurity.

The first measures resulting from the reform of unemployment insurance, which were widely reported and commented on in the press and on social networks, came into force on 1 November.

Resigning individuals covered by the measures

Among the measures that have been widely discussed is the extension of unemployment insurance benefits to employees who have resigned. However, this measure is reserved for employees who meet the following cumulative conditions:

  • five years of continuous activity; and
  • pursuing a professional reorientation project requiring them to follow a course of training or a project to create or take over a business prepared with specialised organisations authorised to provide advice on professional development.

A ‘real and serious’ project

This professional project must be of a real and serious nature, as certified by a regional Committee (‘CPIR’).

The request for the CPIR to approve the ‘real and serious’ nature of the professional project:

  • must be sent by the employee to the approved CPIR in the region of his or her main place of residence or workplace;
  • will be admissible if the employee has not resigned from employment prior to the request for professional development support.

The content of the request and the list of supporting documents to be sent by the employee are specified in a decree and include a presentation of the training programme, schedule and related costs as well as the justification that the applicant has the necessary levels of knowledge, know-how and experience to follow the training course.

The CPIR will assess the project with regard notably to the consistency and adequacy of the project in respect of the characteristics of the contemplated job or contemplated business, the envisaged training course, the financing needs and the employment or business perspectives.

The texts do not specify the period within which the CPIR can then notify the employee concerned of its reasoned decision, but the employee can, in any event, lodge an ex gratia appeal against the commission's decision within two months of notification.

Once the project has been approved by the CPIR, the worker must request the unemployment allowances within six months.

Finally, although resigning employees who qualify for unemployment insurance benefits will be exempted from the obligation to seek employment, their continued compensation will nevertheless be conditional on the implementation of their professional project. A check on the reality of the actions taken for the implementation of the project will be carried out at the latest within six months of the individual obtaining the right to compensation and could lead to termination of payment of the allowance.

As a result, the number of beneficiaries of this new measure is likely, in practice, to be relatively limited.