Long-term sick leave and progressive return to work

The Law of 10 August 2018 amends the Labour Code and the Social Security Code by implementing new provisions regarding the maintaining of the employment contract after long-term sick leave and progressive return to work.

The following provisions shall be applicable as of 1 January 2019:

According to the new Article L. 121-6 of the Labour Code, in the event of illness, employees shall be entitled to full salary payment by the employer until the end of the month of their 77th day of sick leave over a reference period of 18 consecutive weeks (as opposed to the 12-week reference period which is currently applicable). From the month following the 77th day of illness, the Caisse Nationale de Santé ("CNS") shall assume the payment of the sickness benefits. During the previous period, the employer is entitled to a refund of the salary payments of up to 80% by the Mutualité des Employeurs ("MDE"). As a consequence of the reference period increase, the average employer’s contribution rate to be paid to the MDE as fixed by Article 56 of the Social Security Code is decreased from 1.95 % currently applicable to 1.85 %.

According to the new Articles 9 and 14 of the Social Security Code, the right to sickness benefits will be increased from 52 weeks to 78 weeks over a reference period of 104 weeks. Consequently, as of 1 January 2019 and pursuant to Article L. 125-6 of the Labour Code referring to Article 9 of the Social Security Code, an employment contract shall be automatically terminated after 78 weeks of sick leave over a period of 104 weeks compensated by sickness benefits by the CNS.

Article 14bis of the Social Security Code introduces an option for the employee to submit a request to the CNS to benefit from progressive return to work for therapeutic reasons, provided a medical certificate is issued by the treating doctor and the employer approves it. In order to be admissible, the request for progressive return to work may only be submitted by an employee who has been on sick leave for at least one month during the three months preceding the request. The gradual return to work will be granted by the CNS "if the return to work and the work carried out are recognised as likely to improve the insured's state of health". The progressive return may then be achieved by means of adapted tasks or adapted working times. During the period of progressive return, the employee shall receive sickness benefits from the CNS, regardless of the work performed for the employer and the working time arranged (e.g. part-time employment).