News in brief

France ditches 35-hour week to boost economy

France has bid farewell to its maximum 35-hour working week after Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin repealed legislation that was the legacy of the previous socialist government. The mandatory 35-hour week has been blamed for putting up the cost of labour and helping create the country’s high unemployment – which hovers around the 10% mark. The new Bill will allow people to work up to 48 hours a week. Under the reform of the 35-hour law, the number of overtime hours employees can work per year will be increased from 180 to 220. In addition, businesses will be able to sign separate deals with the workforce for even more overtime. The changes will not affect public sector workers.

Unemployment in Germany reaches 60-year high

The German government expects unemployment to reach five million by the end of this month. This would mean that the number of Germans out of work would be at its highest level for 60 years. Chancellor Gerhard Schroder has introduced several labour market reforms, which the government hopes will reduce the overall unemployment level by the end of the year. In its yearly economic report, published last month, it said the number of jobseekers would fall by 200,000 this year.

High absence levels in US cost employers billions

Unscheduled absenteeism in the US climbed to a five-year high last year, but not because of increasing employee sickness. A survey by Illinois-based legal publisher CCH revealed that only 38% of unscheduled absences were for personal illness, with the remainder due to family issues (23%), personal needs (18%), stress (11%), and a sense of entitlement (10%). The poll of 305 HR executives reported annual costs of these absences averaging about $610 (£314) per worker – which would equate to $85bn (£44bn) for the employed population of 140 million.

Low-paid Czech workers are victims of bullying

More than a quarter of Czech workers have either experienced or witnessed bullying in their workplace, according to a survey by research agency SC&C. Of those questioned, 17% actually admitted to being victimised personally. The recipients of bullying, according to the report, were more often people earning below-average wages such as shop assistants or manual workers and women in general. As far as sexual harassment was concerned, 23% confirmed its existence at work, with 12% actually admitting they were the victims. Bullying is less common in firms with fewer than 50 employees, the survey said

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