Ten years after it was introduced, France has ended the compulsory 35 hour work week. The unions organised protests against that outside the parliament building, but French lawmakers passed the law that will allow companies to reach individual deals with employees over work hours and overtime.
Labour Minister Xavier Bertrand denied that people would have more working hours imposing on them and said now “everything will be negotiated company by company.’‘
Under the new legislation no one in France can work more than 48 hours in a given week, including overtime.
Right now, despite the current law, many French employees work longer than 35 hours a week but accumulate time off or overtime. They actually average 41 hours, compared with 41.7 in Germany, 43.1 in Britain, 41.3 in Italy and the EU average is 41.9.
In terms of paid annual leave, the French are in the mid-range in Europe with 25 days holiday as guaranteed non-working days. In theory, the new law could allow companies to demand staff work a maximum of 235 five days a year, instead of the current 218.
The 35 hour week was a flagship reform of the former Socialist government intended to create more jobs. Centre right President Nicolas Sarkozy has blamed it for reducing France’s economic competitiveness.