France admits that short week just isn’t working

The 35-hour working week has been a financial disaster in France, according
to the French Government.

It claims the compulsory 35-hour week costs the state £10bn a year in
additional social charges and is unpopular with employers and those employees
who want to work longer hours to earn more money.

Ben Willmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development, was not surprised.

"It shows what happens when you make statutory restrictions to working time,"
he said.

"It is also an example of why the UK should retain flexibility in the
Working Time Directive through retaining the opt-out."

The French finance minister has recommended that employees there be allowed
to opt out of the working time regulations.

Willmott suggested that the reduced French working hours could be increasing
stress levels. "People are having to work harder during the hours they are
at work," he said. "Recent research looking at stress across Europe
found that the French, Greeks and Italians were the most stressed, which is
interesting considering they have shorter working weeks."

A potential issue for French companies with operations in the UK is how to
meet both UK and French regulations. However Terry Robinson, UK HR director at
Eurotunnel, said it need not be an issue if managed well.

"The modest difference between basic hours in France and the UK is not
contentious as our working week in each country is in line with local
practice," he said.

By Roisin Woolnough

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