Are frontier workers getting the right protection ?

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Are frontier workers getting the right protection ?

June 13, 2019

More and more French people are living in France while working in a neighboring country. Here’s a reminder of their rights in terms of healthcare and retirement benefits.

According to the latest data from Insee, France’s national statistics body, as many as 353,000 French citizens live in France but cross the border to work in one of its eight neighboring countries*. This represents an increase of more than 50,000 since 2006 and more than 100,000 in 1999.

They belong to a group described as “frontier workers”, “cross-border workers” or “shuttlers”, and special provisions have been made for them in the area of social security benefits.


Cross-border workers who are employed in another EU member state can obtain reimbursements of their healthcare expenses (doctor’s fees, prescription medicine, medical exams) on either side of the border. They must first enroll with the social security authority of the country they work in. Once enrolled, they can then submit the form S1 (formerly E106) entitling them to healthcare cover in their country of residence.

Switzerland is a special case, however, since it is not part of the European Union. Shuttlers can choose between French or Swiss health insurance within the first three months of starting employment in Switzerland. They can opt to enroll in the French system by filling out the “Choice of healthcare system” form. The decision is irreversible. Cross-border workers who do use this option within three months are automatically enrolled in the Swiss healthcare system.

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Cross-border workers pay into the pensions system of the country where they work. Thanks to bilateral social security agreements signed between France and close to 70 countries (including the EU member states and Switzerland), entitlements acquired in these countries are taken into account when retirement benefits are paid out in France.

First, theoretical retirement benefits are calculated on the assumption that all entitlements were acquired in France. Then, retirement benefits are calculated by applying the rules of each country in which the worker paid contributions, pro rata to the number of years spent in that country or countries. The higher of the two amounts is paid out by the French pensions system.

*Source: Insee, 2011; neighboring countries: Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Monaco and Andorra.