French add up their working hours to claim their free time

January 6, 2006

The administration of French university life is complex, and the division of academics' time between work and leave is no exception.

The working week is fixed at a maximum of 35 hours, and all French employees are entitled to at least five weeks' annual leave.

There are also 11 public holidays. Some, such as Easter Monday, Bastille Day and Christmas, fall during periods when universities are closed anyway.

But May has three or four bank holidays - May Day, VE Day, Ascension and sometimes Whit Monday. November has two - All Saints' Day and Armistice Day.

French university enseignants-chercheurs (teachers/researchers) do not have holiday entitlements as such but are required to work a statutory number of hours during the academic year.

These are set at the equivalent of giving 148 hours of cours magistraux (lectures) or 192 hours of travaux dirigés (tutorials). An hour and a half of tutorials is considered equal to one hour of lectures. Teachers are entitled to paid overtime.

There is no monitoring of individuals, though Christine Musselin, director of research at the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations, said that the system is becoming "increasingly controlled".

She said: "At the beginning of the year, people must give their departmental head the programme of how they will organise their annual workload. However, nobody actually checks."

Nevertheless, almost all teachers/researchers put in more than their stipulated hours rather than trying to get away with working fewer, she added.

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