May 2015: The best month to work in France

Oliver Gee
Oliver Gee - [email protected]
May 2015: The best month to work in France
File photo of sunbathers at Trocadero, Paris. Photo: Pascal Pavani/AFP

If you're working in France then there's no better month this year than May, when it comes to the number of public holidays at least. But as usual employers are trying to put an end to what they consider a colossal waste of time and money.


May 2015 is a glorious month for workers in France. 
There are four public holidays - Friday the 1st, Friday the 8th, Thursday the 14th, and Monday the 25th. 
This means three long weekends and - for those who will take Friday the 15th off (known as a "pont" in French) - there'll be an extra four-day weekend in the middle of the month. 
And we better enjoy it while we can, because it won't be as much fun next year.
The same month in 2016 will pale in comparison, with two public holidays falling in Sundays, which mean workers basically lose them.
However thankfully there will still be one on a Monday and another on a Thursday.
This means May 2015 is the best month in the next two years if you're looking to delve into a long-weekend getaway - and as grand as this may be for the workers, it is a miserable month for employers. 
Unions representing bosses are again furrowing their brows trying to figure out how to tackle what they argue is a colossal waste of time and money. 
France's influential employers' union Medef argues that two of these holidays need to be wiped out, a move they claim would extend the average annual working year by 1.2 days which represents 1 percent of gross domestic product and the equivalent of 100,000 jobs. 
"These public holidays can cause major damage to companies," Medef's Vice President Thibault Lanxade told Le Parisien newspaper this week.
Considering there is an ever-growing number of unemployed people in France, 3.51 million people according to figures released on Monday, getting rid of two of these days could give the French economy the major boost it sorely needs, he added.

(Photo: Valery Hache/AFP)
He said that while Medef doesn't have the power to make any kind of change, authorities had to ensure the holidays stopped falling on Thursdays and Tuesdays - which allow workers the option of taking the middle "pont" days off too. 
Wednesday holidays were even worse, he added, as people sometimes take an extra two days off on the side to create a five-day mini holiday. 
French economist Gérard Cornilleau, meanwhile, argued that studies have shown that reduced working hours can actually increase productivity.
Either way, France has a reputation for having a very casual approach to work life, with a 35-hour working week, 25 days of annual paid leave, and 11 public holidays.
study last year showed that the French put in the second fewest working hours in Europe. 
France is often ridiculed abroad for its famous 35-hour work week, but in reality most workers put in more hours. The difference with other countries is that they will be compensated with extra rest days or overtime if they pass the threshold.
Worldwide, there are plenty of countries that take more public holidays than France, with India and Colombia topping the charts with 18 each annually compared to France's 11.
France finished 8th on the list, tied with a slew of countries like New Zealand and Canada and Sweden, but behind Japan (15), Finland (15), and Spain (14). The US has 10 public holidays a year. 
The UK lagged behind with only eight public holidays which put them bottom of the list alongside Hungary and Holland.
However one difference the UK has to France is that the number of its public holidays are protected each year, so if any fall on a weekend, workers get extra days off, which unfortunately isn't the case in France.


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