Why it matters. Will free time soon be legally protected?

Contrary to what one might think, working Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 18:00 only affects a small minority of workers: exactly 36%, according to the opinion of the Economic and Social Council (Cese) published last week by one . a six-month public survey conducted among 10,000 citizens. Thus, 64% of employees, representatives of the public sector and self-employed persons work at atypical times and/or on weekends.

“These are completely counterintuitive results,” confirms Christelle Caillet, co-rapporteur of the opinion, who points out that this organization can also satisfy the needs of workers. 75% of the citizens surveyed by Cesa also believe that the standard working regime (5 working days, 2 weekend days) is not the most suitable for a good balance between professional and personal life.

“A balance that suits the whole family”

Séverine, who works in a 24-hour laboratory, chose to work on the weekends after the birth of her first child “to take better care of him and not have to worry about him . I’ve had this rhythm for over 20 years and it suits me perfectly,” he explains. Jonathan has worked night shifts for 17 years and notes that it allows him to organize his day around (his) personal responsibilities or family life. “My excellent availability during the day makes medical appointments in particular much easier,” he explains.

Freelance designer Bertrand “wanted to create a customized and, above all, quick response to (his) clients”, which forces him to work when they are not, i.e. evenings, weekends, part of holidays. “The counterpart is time for the children during the week, for school trips, very easy to pick them up when they are sick… In short, a balance that suits the whole family perfectly,” he explains.

Others may want to shift their plans for transportation reasons, to help a sick loved one, etc. The Advisory Assembly made about twenty recommendations on how to maintain this balance. “The needs of workers become individual needs that evolve according to the moments of life and their personal situation. Working hours should not be imposed,” summarizes Christelle Caillet. “The whole task is to create tailor-made solutions while respecting collective, labor law and in an evolving way,” adds Elisabeth Tomé-Gertheinrichs, another co-rapporteur.

“Free time is different from rest time”

If we add to this the development of remote work, on-call obligations and the fact that 75% of respondents feel that their working days are becoming more intense, it becomes essential to preserve free time, regardless of any professional limitations. to give it a definition. “Working time is defined by the Labor Code, as well as rest time. But free time is different from rest time,” says Christelle Caillet. Cese suggests that France take this proposal to the European level so that the definition is included in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. “The right to free time must have the same value as the right to work, education, property, etc.,” specifies Elisabeth Tomé-Gertheinrichs.

At national level, Cese recommends starting cross-sectoral negotiations on the division of working time to take into account the changing needs of employees, but also to clarify the “grey areas” that remain between working time and free time. This particularly concerns the right to disconnect, which is not perceived equally by all employees. For 50% of respondents, it’s not really about cutting off all means of communication with their company outside of working hours, but about being able to connect and disconnect whenever they want.

Christelle Caillet and Elisabeth Tomé-Gertheinrichs say they met with Gabriel Attal and Catherine Vautrin, Minister of Labor, on April 26 to present Cese’s opinion and “receive a very attentive hearing”: “They intend to take a position”. Perhaps by incorporating Cese’s recommendations into the future labor law that the government should present in the fall.

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