Tougher sanctions as job-seekers told to take less pay

Tougher measures to force jobless people to do more to find work could see benefits removed for four months.

23 January 2019
By Connexion journalist

The sanctions will also mean a claimant who refuses a reasonable job will lose their payments – even if the pay level is less than was previously used to define a “reasonable” job.

The moves are harsher than proposals set out last spring and come as President Macron said in his new year message that he wanted unemployment benefit reformed to promote the return to sustainable employment.

He wants savings of €3.9billion in the social security budget over three years and aims to target 865,000 people who claim benefit while working part-time.

He also wants to cut the number of fixed-term contracts that firms hand out, many for just a month. Negotiations are going on with unions and employer organisations.

Unemployment benefit in France is not a set sum but a percentage of previous pay based on work history, wages earned and social charges paid. It is capped at €7,445 a month. Unemployment was 9.1% at the end of 2018.

Some claimants are said to maintain a good standard of living as long as their benefits last, leading to accusations that they are “holidaying on other people’s taxes”, though many claims are exaggerated.

Claimants can receive about two-thirds of their previous pay – calculated over 365 days – for up to two years, or three years if aged over 55. Last summer, Pôle Emploi (the job centre) said 12% of job-seekers were not actively seeking work, and just 8% of those on assurance-chômage benefit.

Now controls are being tightened for missing Pôle Emploi interviews, not trying hard enough to find a job and, in particular, refusing job offers.

The original message from ministers had been that benefits would be suspended for a month, meaning they could be paid later if needed, but with increasing penalties for repeated job rejections. Now the month’s payment is lost.

Missed meetings with Pôle Emploi advisers will lead to benefits being suspended, for one month for a first lapse, two months for a second and four months for three missed dates.

The government aims to create more Pôle Emploi posts to help job-seekers.

However, Marylise Léon, deputy leader of the CFDT union, said the “tightening of the penalties is unfair” and would destroy job-seekers’ confidence in Pôle Emploi.

Another union, Force Ouvrière, said 60% of unemployed people found a job before their rights ran out. It said the law was turning Pôle Emploi into a control agency rather than a job-finder.

Unemployment benefit is one of several key reforms on the government’s agenda for 2019. Others include tax, pensions, national institution change and possible referendums, energy transition, the public sector and national service.

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