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COVID-19: Information for cross-border workers

20.03.2020 Euroregion

As a result of the health situation related to the Covid-19 crisis, many cross-border workers have been forced to telework for several weeks.

The information we have is given below, and it will be updated as soon as we have further details. This information is subject to changes and modifications.

Lockdown measures:

“ Citizens must remain at home to limit contact outside their immediate environment to a maximum”. Leaving home is permitted to:

  • Go to work (when telework is not possible).
  • Essential movements. Thus, these trips are limited to going to: the doctor, a grocery store (including pet shops), the chemist’s, the bank.

Companies must promote telework for all posts possible, with no exceptions. If this is not possible, social distancing must be respected. If it is not possible to respect the distancing obligation, companies must remain closed. Companies from essential sectors may continue to operate, but they are required to respect the social distance between workers.

On the 29th of March, the Council of Ministers of the Spanish Government approved the stoppage of non-essential economic activities, from Monday, the 30th of March until Thursday, the 9th of April, as an extreme measure to curb the coronavirus contagion curve.

Border controls:

As part of the fight against Covid-19, control measures on our borders have been foreseen.

While awaiting a specific form for border workers, we recommend those who have to go to work to take with them proof of the working capacity (contract, wage slip, card, employee’s certificate,…) to be able to pass any border control. It will also be necessary to carry a residence/census certificate.

The Proof of professional travel and the Compulsory Travel Certificate requested by the French authorities to travel can be downloaded at this link.

The Proof of professional travel published by the Basque Government can also be downloaded at this link.

Guaranteed rights:

  • Cross-border workers in Nouvelle Aquitaine

The French Ministry of Work has guaranteed that “the work contract of border workers is maintained, and all associated rights and protections are guaranteed”.

In the event of a preventive measure taken by a company that requests its French border workers not to go to work, the full salary is maintained.

If the company launches a partial activity plan, border employee benefit from it just like the other employees.

When there is compensation allowance in the state of activity to look after children due to the closure of nurseries, border workers will be entitled to this.

Furthermore, the French Government has announced that the payment of social assistance by the Caisse d’allocations familiales (CAF) will be ensured, and the continuity of rights will be guaranteed. Everyone who must, now or in the near future, present a quarterly statement of resources, is encouraged to do so online. However, in the case of any person who cannot renew their quarterly statement, the payment of the benefits they were previously entitled to, will be automatically renewed. This mechanism implemented by the CAF will guarantee the continuity of rights for all those who need them.

  • Cross-border workers in Euskadi or Navarra
    • What happens in the case of an ERTE? If you live in France, work on the other side of the border, and your company suspends the labour relationship or reduces your working hours due to temporary dismissal (ERTE), competence in this issue belongs to Spain. The unemployment benefits will be paid by the National Employment Service (SEPE). In this situation, people affected by ERTEs do not have to present a request for unemployment benefit. The company will be responsible for this when the ERTE is approved, and the subsidy will be paid automatically.
    • Recoverable paid leave: The Council of Ministers approved Royal Decree-Law 10/2020 on the 29th of March, whereby a recoverable paid leave is regulated for third-party workers who do not provide essential services. Companies must negotiate, with the unitary representation, with the unions, or with the workers, the way in which these non-rendered working days will be repaid. During this period, workers will continue to receive their full payments, including basic salary and any supplements they are entitled to. And the companies must continue to pay all the respective contributions. In any case, the recovery of these hours may not, at any time,, represent, a breach of the minimum daily rest periods (12 hours between one day and another), or weekly rest periods (1.5 days) foreseen by law, or exceed the maximum annual working hours established in the applicable collective agreement. The legally and conventionally recognized rights of reconciliation of personal and family life must also be respected. The deadline to recover these 8 working days is the 31st of December 2020.

What happens in the case of sick leave due to coronavirus?

The presentation of a medical certificate that proves inability to work permits covering sick leave. Thus, in the case of coronavirus, a medical certificate provided by a French or Spanish doctor will allow them to benefit from the legislation on sick leave.

If the cross-border worker is in quarantine, and has a medical certificate, he/she will be compensated as usual. Lacking a medical certificate, the affected worker can invoke the existence of force majeure, and must inform the employee as soon as possible.

What happens if the child of an employee is in quarantine?

We are currently awaiting information on this issue.

Telework and social security:

The European legislation establishes a simple rule:  a person working in several countries of the European Union can only contribute in one country. So, a person working in a border country and who teleworks in their country of residence can only depend on one social security system.

In this case, the border worker is still subject to the social security system of the country where they regularly work, if the work in their country of residence, in the teleworking context, does not exceed 25% of their total work time or of their salary. This threshold is evaluated throughout one calendar year.

If this threshold is exceeded (that is, working 25% or more than the total working time/salary in the country of residence), the worker must be affiliated to the social security system of the country of residence and contribute there.

  • Problem with Coronavirus: what happens if this threshold is exceeded?

The French Social Security Department considers that the situation is a case of force majeure. Telework established in these exceptional circumstances must not, therefore, give rise to a change in affiliation of the worker’s regular social security system.

So, if, exceptionally, the 25% threshold is exceeded due to coronavirus, it is foreseen for the border worker to remain affiliated to the social security system of their working country (without having to change to the social security system of their country of residence).

These elements have been transmitted to the European opposite numbers responsible for social security.

Communiqué from the European Commission:

The European Commission has presented an informative document aimed at cross-border and displaced workers affected by the restrictions imposed by certain member states of the  European Union due to COVID-19. The document, written in English, can be accessed by clicking on this link.

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