France puts the brakes on 35-hour workweek

French workers can now put in up to 13 hours of overtime a week

In a move designed to keep its economy competitive and to create more jobs, France has voted to relax the rules around its 35-hour workweek.

Workers will now be able to work up to 13 hours of overtime for a total of 48 hours a week, the maximum allowed by the European Union.

French workers hadn’t been clamouring for more hours on the job. In a national survey, only 18 per cent said they were interested in working more hours for more pay. But employers said the short work week had failed to create jobs and was uncompetitive.

The 35-hour workweek was introduced in 2000 for employers with more than 20 staff with the hopes it would reduce unemployment. But it did not, and France’s unemployment rate has remained at about 10 per cent.

But the short workweek won’t die anytime soon in France. The 35-hour rule still applies to the public sector and will remain the standard working week in the private sector. Employers will have to negotiate with employees to determine how much more time they will put in and will have to compensate them for that time.

Time spent on the job
CountryHours worked per year
United Kingdom1,673
United States1,792
South Korea2,390
Source: Organization for Econominc Co-operation and Development, 2003 survey

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