Middle managers in France have taken their complaints about the legislation
introducing a 35-hour week to the European Court of Human Rights.
If successful the TUC has indicated it may use the case to challenge the
remit of the UK law on working time.
The CFE-CGC white-collar union has begun proceedings against the French
government claiming that its members’ exclusion from the law’s limit of 35
hours on the working week is discriminatory and violates their right to a
private and family life.
It is demanding that the government pays FFr 78bn (£7.1bn) each year in
compensation for the extra hours that the country’s one million middle managers
will work as a result of the lesser protection the law provides them compared
with other employees.
The French legislation – known as the Aubry II Law after employment minister
Martine Aubry – came into force in January. While it imposes a 35-hour limit
for most employees, middle managers who do not have working hours specified in
their contracts are restricted to 217 days – the maximum number of days they
can work in a year.
By calculating its members’ maximum working time in days, the CFE-CGC claims
that not only does the law offer inferior protection compared with that for
other workers, but that it could also lead to them working longer hours than in
the past. They could be required to work up to 13 hours a day, six days a week,
the union argues.
It claims the legislation puts France in breach of the European Convention
of Human Rights, by denying middle managers the same rights as other employees
to a private and family life.
A victory by the French union could have implications for UK Working Time
legislation, according to TUC senior policy officer Sarah Veale, pointing to
the similar exclusion of some UK white-collar staff. "If the French case
reveals an opening that is available to us, we will use it," she said.