HR Strange But True!
May 24, 2001

The world got used to France shutting down for the month of August, but the adoption there of the 35-hour workweek, combined with lots of holidays and the effects of corporate vacation rules, means you can forget about doing business there in May too.

There are three French bank holidays in May, four if you count Pentecost, which this year falls on June 4. And most French companies require employees to use up accrued vacation time from the previous year by the end of May.

"The result," the Irish Times says, "can be catastrophic." France effectively treats May as a month-long vacation, the newspaper's Paris bureau reports, noting that the banker it normally deals with there "has vanished."

Some employers have tried to maintain control of workers' schedules, but to no avail. By continuing to work 39 hours under the 35-hour-week law, workers accumulate four hours a week in time off, which they save up as days to combine with bank holidays.

A French employee who takes no extra time off -- by simply taking advantage of the "bridges" between weekends and bank holidays -- works only 18 days this May.

"We're the laughing-stock of our European neighbors," one man complained. "What economy can bear this?"

Source: Irish Times.

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