Swedish City Cuts Work Hours to 6 Without Pay Reduction, France Makes Working After 6 PM Illegal

By @ibtimesau on
Labourers work at a construction site in Shanghai, January 16, 2014.
Labourers work at a construction site in Shanghai, January 16, 2014. Reuters

Work-life balance was given a stronger boost in two European countries with changes to work hours that would surely be the envy of many overworked and underpaid employees around the world who often neglect family life or personal pursuits because of too much time spent on the job.

Gothenburg, a Swedish city, would allow some of its public sector employees to work only for 6 hours a day instead of the standard 7 hours. However, they would not get pay cuts despite the lesser working hours.

However, the scheme is still on the pilot test stage with one group working only 6 hours and another group 7 hours. At the end of the experiment, their performance would be compared and evaluated.

Other jurisdictions have experimented in the past with work hours reduction such as a city in Utah that allowed public sector workers three days weekend.

An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study found that while Greeks work over 2,000 hours a year and Germans only 1,400, Greek employees are 70 per cent less productive compared to German workers.

Anna Coote, head of social policy at the British think tank New Economics Foundation, lauds the proposal by the Swedish city. She said, quoted by The Telegraph, "Shorter working hours create a more committed and stable workforce ... There are indications you can make savings by reducing working hours."

In France, a new labour agreement allows employees to ignore work emails when it is beyond regular office hours or 6 pm. The deal includes phone calls and text messages on their smartphones.

French workers are expected to work 35 hours a week, based on a law introduced in 1999. With the new legally binding labour deal, employees are ordered to switch off their mobile phones after 6 pm.

The agreement, which would affect about one million workers in the technology and consultancy sectors, including the French offices of Google, Facebook, Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers, would likely make obsolete the word "overtime" from the French vocabulary.

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