The French have a little ‘savoir faire’, when it comes to their work/life balance attitude. They do work hard, but know the balance, so that they can enjoy their lives outside of work too.
I have never had so many holidays in my life, as in France with 7 weeks each year, plus bank holidays. The French are lucky to benefit from these holidays, and whilst they work hard during work hours, they can enjoy long holidays, particularly in August and come back to work refreshed and energized to start working again.
In May and August, there are so many bank holidays one has the impression of not working much at all, as you continue to re-start work then stop work for the holiday. Whilst Australians may fight to have the day off before a public holidays to have a long weekend, in France, it’s normally an imposed RTT day off. The companies automatically allows employees to ‘faire le pont’ or ‘make the bridge’ to have a 4 day weekend. It seems the working rights are in favour of the French worker, rather than the other way around.
August is a great month to see Paris as most Parisians are on holidays in the south; it’s quieter with less people about. Many shops close down for the entire month of August, which demonstrates how the French value quality family time and holidays over extra profits. Enjoying this time for holidays is apart of their lives, and some extra profits made in this month doesn’t tempt them at all. Well, good on them then, it doesn’t sound too bad actually!
Subsidized lunch with ticket-resto
The french are one nation to take their lunchtime seriously; where the pressure is to get your chosen brasserie/restaurant by 12.30 to secure a table. Eating out for lunch is popular and you have to be on time. It’s normal to go over 1 hr during lunch and I think the French have the right attitude with a proper lunch break. Mentally, it’s good to have a change of scenery, to eat well and be refreshed for the afternoon.
Most large companies give ticket-resto cheques, which are 50% company funded and 50% from your salary. So, you have an extra incentive to eat out and have a proper lunch break.
Normally companies pay for half your transport costs, which is a basic need, that wasn’t covered in my workplace in Australia or the UK. This indicates again how attitudes are in favour for the worker in France.
The 35 working week
The 35 hour week was introduced by socialist government in 1998, and has changed over time as France lacked competitiveness with world markets.
Polls show the French are fond of their 35 hr week, so governments are unlikely to remove this completely. However, modifications have been made to allow for overtime work, which should in turn help France’s productivity and economic growth.
Nowadays, working over time is compensated with RTT days off and the overtime rate has been reduced from a normal 25% to 10%, so workers are getting used to the idea of working more for a lesser reward.
In Germany, the working week is also 35 hrs but companies are asking employees to work more or otherwise told that the jobs would be outsourced to Hungary, Poland and or potentially China.
In France, once you have a peramanent contract, it is difficult for your company to fire you, as the French law protects the employee. This means that the recruitment process is long and employers prefer to put you on a temporary contract CDI before starting the permanent CDD contract.
So in answer to the question of work life balance, I think the French do know a few things, how to work hard, and at the same time, not be afraid to spend time with friends and family on long holidays. The French make sure their work life can fit in with their lifestyle. So whilst, Australia is a beautiful country where Australian always have a positive outlook on life, on the work life balance, I think we can learn a little from the Frenchies!