New rules for volunteers and organisations in France

New rules for associations help cut paperwork and let workers give more of their time

La,Garde,France,12,December,2023:,a volunteer with restos du coeur helps prepare food stores
Many of the 2024 changes are aimed at larger associations such as Les Restos du Coeur
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The rules for associations have been changed in a bid to cut down on paperwork and ensure more people can take time off work to help the less fortunate. We look at what these changes included in the 2024 Public Finance Law mean for associations.

An association in its most basic form is a not-for-profit group of individuals with a joint project who engage in shared activities or have shared interests. 

The status was created under the famous loi 1901 legal framework and holds a place in everyday French life that goes deeper than the obvious comparison with charities established in the UK.

The 1901 law allows any group to establish and register an association and is seen as a keystone of liberty. Before it, repressive laws, designed to stop people plotting against the state, meant freedom of association in France was restricted.

Broader than a charity or foundation, they can encompass a hobby, sporting, cultural, educational or other activity, as well as those actively seeking donations for a good cause.

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Mayors can let groups use rooms

Some of the new rules in 2024 affect small associations such as those running village fetes, brocantes or petanque clubs.

Mairies can now grant the right to occupy public space for events without a fee, instead of associations having to go through the departmental prefecture.

Loans from one association to another will also be made easier, as long as the associations concerned are on an official list.

Another financial measure will allow treasurers to transfer money more easily to other associations who have registered as a group – an example, being the money raised by a village lottery being shared among other village associations.

Most of the changes, however, are aimed at larger associations, which often perform important social welfare functions, such as Restos du Coeur and Emmaüs.

Their employees can now obtain a compte engagement citoyen, which opens the way for government-funded training, after the association has been established for just one year, rather than the three years previously. The new rules have also simplified the paperwork associated with contributions to the fund.

Another change is to the congé d’engagement associatif, also known by its old name of congé de citoyenneté, where members of an association can take time out of their job to work for the organisation, without losing benefits such as pension rights. 

This, too, is now possible after an association has been in existence for a year, rather than three.

Some companies even contribute to the salary received from the association so that overall pay remains the same.

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Paid for volunteering

Workers can now also “donate” some of their days off, such as réduction du temps de travail days obtained under the 35-hour work rules, to an association.

Effectively this means the days will be converted into cash from their employers, which is given to associations according to a fixed formula.

Further support for associations comes from the mécénat de competences, where large firms second staff, or entire teams, to work for an association for a fixed period.

The scheme gives some tax breaks to firms, but until now was only possible in those which had more than 5,000 employees.

With the change, smaller firms can now join the mécénat scheme.

Mécénat des competences has also been opened to hospital staff, making it possible for health teams to be sent on specific missions.