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Social Security and Welfare

France - Social Security and Welfare

Those who are resident in France need to be registered with the French social security system so that they can be sure of the benefits to which they are entitled. There are several different categories to the social security system and you need to be sure that you are in the right one. The general scheme (régime générale) covers more than 80% of people in France and is the one used for employees. There are some autonomous schemes for self employed and some categories of professional workers, an agricultural scheme (régimes agricoles) for farm workers and special schemes for specific work, such as for those in the civil service.

The majority of people are registered on the general scheme which covers workers for sickness benefits, maternity benefits, accidents at work, disability, old age pensions, death benefits and unemployment benefits. When you start at any job in France the employer is obliged to register your details with the URSSAF. You will only need to contact them if you believe that there is a problem. This will cover you for the social security contributions which are taken from your salary and benefits such as unemployment benefit and pensions. The employer also makes a contribution in your name to the scheme.

You will receive a certificate that gives details of your registration to the scheme. You will also receive a social security number and a carte vitale for health benefits. Under the general scheme the cover automatically extends to those people in your immediate family who are dependent on you, such as children or a spouse. If you are working for a company that has offices in France but is officially based outside the country you will not be eligible to join a social security scheme.

Health care is available to all those who have legal residency in France. The social security system requires the care to be paid for first then reimbursed later. If you need to take sick leave from work you are entitled to 50% of your average gross pay from the previous three months. These payments are available from the fourth day of sick leave and the payments are usually made by the employer, who can claim them back from the authorities. Maternity leave is covered by social security also and this covers 100% of the costs, including all hospital treatments. All those who take maternity leave are given a daily allowance. The amount is based on the average daily pay earned over the previous three months and maternity leave will last for a minimum of 16 weeks. A maximum of six weeks can be taken prior to the due date. Longer periods of maternity leave are available after the third child.

If you should be in an accident while travelling to or from work you will be covered under the French social security system. There is a daily allowance from the first day you are unable to work which is the equivalent of 60% of your average gross daily pay for a period of 28 days, which then increases to 80%. If it is deemed that you are incapable of working on a permanent basis then you may be able to claim a pension. If you die as a result of your injuries then your family may be able to claim a pension. You are also able to claim in this category if you choose to move to another country at a later date.

The social security also covers invalidity insurance. This is can be awarded to a claimant on a temporary basis and can be reviewed regularly by the authorities. In order to claim the authorities must consider that you are two-thirds disabled, under the age of 60, have made contributions to the social security system for a minimum of 6 months and be prepared to undergo medical examinations when required. You can also receive a pension under this section of the regime. The amount paid will depend upon your employment status and average earnings over the previous 10 years.

There are two different categories of old age benefits. These are contributory benefits and those that are non-contributory. Contributory pensions are the old age pension and the widowhood pension. In order to qualify for the old age pension you must have made contributions over a minimum of 37.5 years. For those who have not worked for this period of time the pension payments are reduced. Widowhood pension is paid to those who are aged above 55 years and it is calculated at 54% of the deceased spouse’s pension. This pension is only paid to those who are on low incomes. The non-contributory pension is also a means tested benefit and the selection criteria is based on age, residency status, income and the length of time the applicant has worked in the country.

Death benefits are paid as a lump sum to the children or spouse of a person who had contributed to this insurance. This is the equivalent of 90 days average basic daily pay. If you are making a claim you need to submit the death certificate, insurance card, statement of salary and any supporting documentation which showed that you were dependent upon the deceased.

There are a variety of family benefits that may be payable if your family is on a low income and you have dependent children living at home. The amounts payable will be based on the number of children, the family income and the residency status of the parents. Benefits can be paid for a wide variety of needs including housing, education, adoptions and parental care. Applications can be made to the ‘Caisses d’Allocations Familiales’ (CAF).

In order to qualify for unemployment benefits you need to have made social security contributions for a minimum of 4 months during the previous 28. When you first arrive in France you can claim unemployment benefits if you have moved to the country to find work and you can prove that you are actively seeking employment. If you refuse two offers of employment which are deemed to be ‘reasonable’ your benefit can be stopped. Unemployment benefits are paid on a daily rate which is based on monies you have earned previously. The minimum amount payable is €26.66.

Useful Resources

Centre des Liaisons Europeennes et Internationales de Securite Sociale (CLEISS) - Help-desk in France for International Mobility and Social Security
11 rue de la Tour des Dames
75436 Paris Cedex 09
Tel: 1 45 26 33 41

Caisse d'Assurance Maladie des Professions Liberales d'Ile de France (provides information on French Social Security matters for the self-employed)
22 rue Vilet
75730 Paris Cedex 15
Tel: 01 45 78 32 00

For UK citizens:

Department of Social Security
Overseas Branch
EU Office Longbenton
NE98 1YX
Tel: +44 (0)191 213 5000

Read more about this country

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.