Come July 1, you and your crewmembers may have to start paying into the French social security system, even if you’re not French.
It’s due to a new law. That law dictates that all crewmembers living in France for more than three months a year must contribute to the French social security system. This, regardless of their nationality and the flag flown by the megayacht employing them. The law may have undue consequences—like megayacht owners facing fines.
The good news is, the yacht-management firm Hill Robinson is taking legal action. It wants the French Supreme court to postpone enforcement, plus review and amend the law.
Hill Robinson doesn’t oppose the spirit of the French social security law. In fact, Nick Hill, managing director for Hill Robinson, says “we applaud” the goal, to expand medial and pension coverage for French mariners. The issue, though, is that many crew only live part time in the South of France. The law doesn’t exclude them, even if they maintain their primary residence elsewhere. “The serious concern is that it could lead to a large-scale enrollment of all other nationality crewmembers,” Hill explains.
He adds, “99 percent of the superyacht fleet will be deterred from visiting French waters for any significant time.” He’s confident few, if any, yachts will stay longer than three months. “So, this will result in less private cruising and commercial chartering in the South of France,” Hill continues. He also sees detrimental impact on French refit yards, and more. “This not only affects the yachts themselves, but also the whole infrastructure built around the superyacht industry,” he says.
French government officials attended an information session in May for the industry, to explain the ideas behind the law. Hill Robinson staff attended that seminar, but remained concerned. A few other industry companies and organizations share that concern. They include the Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association, Composite Works Shipyard, and Vauban 21, which operates Port Vauban marina in Antibes. On their behalf, as well as the behalf of three megayacht owners, Hill Robinson filed suit.
If the law takes hold as planned, all megayacht crew and employers must start paying into the French social security regimen. There are some stipulations, however. Crewmembers will have to pay only if they’re not already paying into another country’s system. Those countries must be European Union members, or ones with a reciprocal agreement with France. The crew will have to provide proof of enrollment either way. But, some UK nationals will have to pay regardless. Even if they already pay voluntary National Insurance Class 2 contributions in England, France requires contributing to its system.
As for employers, non-French employers have two options. They’ll need to furnish a bank guarantee or deposit money with French authorities, to cover possible liabilities. In either situation, Hill Robinson argues the money will be substantial. It points to a 164-foot (50-meter) megayacht with a 12-person crew as an example. With a deposit, the French authorities require six months’ social security, per person. With a bank guarantee, 12 months’ social security is required.
Hill Robinson warns the lawsuit may not have any outcome prior to July 1. Naturally, it recommends all megayacht owners and crew comply with the new regulation.
We’re monitoring the lawsuit and will update accordingly. In the meantime, should you require additional information, consult your yacht management firm and/or maritime lawyer.