Bill on the 35-hour week adopted by the Council of Ministers

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In December 1997, the Council of Ministers adopted the bill aimed at putting into effect the French Government's plan to reduce the statutory working week to 35 hours.

On 10 December 1997, the Council of Ministers adopted a bill on the reduction of working time, aimed at implementing the Government's plan, announced in October 1997 (FR9710174N), to introduce a statutory 35-hour working week from 2000. The news bill, which offers both "incentives and guidance", posts ambitious goals, since (as stated in its introduction) "a carefully implemented reduction of working time can create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, a result which no government policy has obtained in the last 20 years." The bill, which will be debated in Parliament in late January 1998, makes the following provisions.

  • The statutory 35-hour week will come into force on 1 January 2000 for companies employing more than 20 workers, and on 1 January 2002 for smaller firms.
  • The social partners are invited to undertake negotiations at sector and company level before January 2000. These negotiations should decide the scale and speed of implementation of the reduction in working hours and organisational details pertaining to production and working time, within the context of the specific economic needs of companies of and the wishes of their employees.
  • The reduction in the working week to below 39 hours may be achieved through using time off, which can be accumulated in a "time-savings account".
  • Pay supplements for overtime working in the hours between 35 and 39 hours a week will be no greater than 25%, "which may be reduced if the economic situation requires."
  • As a measure to restrict overtime, time off in lieu as compensation for overtime working will, as of 1 January 1999, take effect from the 41st hour of work a week instead of the present 42nd hour.
  • Companies will be given incentives to bargain through a system of gradually decreasing financial assistance. A company reducing its working time by 10% (from 39 to 35 hours) by the end of 1998, while at the same time increasing its workforce by 6%, which must be maintained over a two-year period, will be eligible for FRF 9,000 per employee involved per year. This assistance will take the form of a reduction in the social security contributions levied on the company and will be gradually lowered by FRF 1,000 per year to reach FRF 5,000 by the fifth year. If the reduction in the working week reaches 15% and is combined with an increase in the company's workforce of at least 9% the financial incentive could be raised by FRF 4,000 per employee per year.
  • The civil service and certain state-owned companies in a monopoly situation, a list of which will be set out by government decree, are not affected by the new law.
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