Partial activity and employees working in an international context

Partial activity and employees working in an international context

Partial activity (otherwise known as "short-time working" or "technical unemployment") is a mechanism that allows the temporary suspension - in whole or in part - of employees' activity in order to deal with exceptional circumstances. It can take the form of a reduction of working hours or a temporary closure of the site/of a service. The principle is that an employer who has obtained an authorization for partial activity pays a compensation to its employees placed in partial activity and receives an allowance from the State calculated on the basis of non-working hours declared monthly for each employee concerned.

The French Ministry of Labor in its Q&A document « Exceptional provisions for partial activity » updated to April, 22, 2020 has given some practical answers regarding partial activity and employees working in an international context.


  1. Precisions regarding these employees who are employed by a foreign company with no establishment in France

An Ordinance of March 27, 2020 had extended the benefit of the partial activity mechanism to foreign companies that do not have any establishment in France but employ at least one employee carrying out their activity on the national territory.

The practical modalities to submit the request are described in the Q&A document.

Several conditions must be met:

  • The employer, a foreign company, does not have an establishment in France;
  • The employer, a foreign company, is subject to social security contributions and unemployment insurance obligations under French law;
  • The employer fulfils its obligations relating to the declaration and payment of employer and employee contributions due in respect of the employment of salaried personnel under the French Social Security system, to the Social Security and Unemployment Insurance system with a single collection body: Urssaf Alsace: Centre National Firmes Étrangères (CNFE);
  • The employee is covered by the French social security system and has a private employment contract with the foreign company.


Which documents must be submitted with the request?

  • Any document demonstrating the need for partial activity in connection with the health crisis of Covid-19 (reduction of activity...);
  • A document justifying the company's address abroad;
  • A French RIB (bank details);
  • The information required under Article R.5122-2 of the French Labor Code, i.e. foreseeable period of under-activity, number of employees concerned.


  1. Precisions regarding the eligibility of expatriate employees to the partial activity scheme
  • Employees with employment contracts subject to French law working on sites located in foreign countries are not eligible for partial activity, as it is not possible for the administrative authority to verify the decrease in activity for sites abroad. An exception is possible only if the company demonstrates that it cannot repatriate its employees in view of the current health measures.
  • For expatriate employees who are under local contract with the foreign company and who are repatriated to France, the eligibility conditions are as follows:
  • If the employee is reclassified to a position within the company in France and the employees within the same department are placed in partial activity, the employee may benefit from of the partial activity on the same basis as his colleagues;
  • If the employee is not immediately reclassified by the company in France, the company may apply for partial activity until its actual reclassification to another position, or until he or she can go abroad again. With the provision, however, that the reclassification clause has priority over the placement in partial activity: the company will have to justify the fact that it was unable to meet its reclassification obligation because of its contractual or collective obligations.


The employment law team of BDO Avocats is at your disposal to assist you in setting up the partial activity scheme for your French employees.