On 27th October 2017, an amendment to the existing Decree 307-2017 was passed, so that seafarers liable to French social security are now given the option to use a private scheme which will replace the liability to register with French authorities, as long it was at least equal to the cover provided by ENIM. However what exactly equal cover meant was not immediately clarified.
An explanatory note included with the amendment stated:
“This amendment provides that the seafarers concerned will be affiliated to the French social security scheme unless they provide proof of at least equivalent social protection.
Seafarers already affiliated to a French social security scheme remain affiliated to this scheme, unless specifically requested by them and provided that they are covered by equivalent social protection.”
In short from 1 January 2018 seafarers may be considered outside the scope of the Decree if they are already in a scheme which offers equivalent cover to that in Article L 111-1 of the Social Security Code. Furthermore, seafarers who are already enrolled into the French scheme may request to opt out and take private cover but otherwise will remain affiliated.
Employer must now consider the following matters:
1. The wishes of the crew: it seems possible most crew will prefer private cover to enrolment in a national scheme, especially if they are not French citizens or long-term French residents, due to issues of transferability of benefits, building up entitlement etc. Equally some may prefer to remain in a national scheme.
2. The “dis-enrolment” of any crew already in the French system who now wish to have private cover
3. Where private schemes are taken out, ensure they are:
A. Providing equivalent coverage to that under the French law
C. Interplay properly with any existing insurance coverage
D. Are otherwise legally robust.
There is at least one company of which we are aware who have stated they have a product that will fulfil this need. There may also be some national schemes where voluntary enrolment will provide the cover required.
Voyonic are conducting our own discussions with providers and our advisors at this time, to ensure that we can get the best deal for our clients and employees, whilst ensuring legislation is complied with.
We will also be discussing with clients the employment aspects of using this “third option” versus a national mandatory one – how this should be written into employment terms, how crew are informed and updated etc.
As always everything we do will be in line with our values of high quality, best-in-class service and compliance with regulations. Whilst it may be tempting to rush into a course of action, we are firmly of the belief that caution is the “ounce of prevention” that saves a “pound of cure” – or in this case the thousands of pounds, euros or dollars that non-compliance could cost.
We will update further as the situation progresses.
NB: Employees not liable to French social security will remain responsible for registration and payment to their relevant social security scheme, in the absence of regulations to the contrary.