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The 35-Hour Working Week

10:35, 22/1/2020

Home » News & Knowledge » The 35-Hour Working Week

At present, a large number of employees across the United Kingdom are essentially overworked, and underpaid. It is also becoming more apparent that working families are struggling to keep up with the costs of basic living.


The financial and physical and emotional implications of this can be significant and as such this can reportedly cause and/or contribute towards a person suffering from a work-related psychiatric injury.

In order to address this situation, a suggestion was previously put to parliament that full-time employees of the United Kingdom be allowed to work fewer hours (35 a week), without having to take a pay cut.


35-Hour Working Week


France and the 35-hour working week

Although this proposal has not been passed in the UK to date, there are notable benefits to a four-day (35 hour)  working week, which was first introduced to France 1998.

The French claim that a 35-hour working week is advantageous in the following ways:  

1) The 35-hour working week was allegedly responsible for a spike in France’s high productivity after 1998, with employees claiming to feel more motivated, having an improved work life balance.

2) With a new and improved work life balance, Employees reported:

  • Being able to collect their children from school, prevented them relying upon grandparents to do this for them, thus relieving pressure and reducing stress levels of other family members.
  • Feeling refreshed and alert as a result of working less.
  • Increased levels of happiness, and decreased levels of stress.
  • Being able to spend more time with their children and have more time to enjoy recreational activities.

3) Where families had relied upon childcare, reduced hours, meant that there was a significant reduction in child care fees over the course of a month. This helped to elevate some of the financial pressure and stress endured by some working families, allowing additional funds to be used for other household essentials or family days out.

4) The 35-hour weekly contract generally speaking prevented employees from working insanely long and unpredictable hours, as contracts tended to be on a more fixed and specific basis.

5) Consequently, there is also a theory that suggests the 35-hour working week led to the French generally adopting less materialistic values.


work stress


Although the 35-hour working week appeared to have a positive effect on relieving stress in an increasingly beneficial work-life balance amongst employees, the reported disadvantages of a 35-hour working week contract were noted to be as follows:

1) The 35-hour working week was reported as being too rigid in some cases.

  • Where some employees on occasion requested to work overtime, their employers refused, stating that they would not pay the employee to do any more work they needed or wanted to do outside of the provisions of their 35 hours a week contract. This, therefore, has the potential to affect an employee’s wellbeing, when the option of earning additional funds that they may have previously had is no longer available to them.
  • Due to the flexibility already afforded to Employees as part of the 35-hours a week contract, employers were less inclined to grant additional time off for appointments, etc, even when employees offered to work the additional time back at an alternative time or date.

2) Others blamed the 35-hour working week as the cause of France’s economic problems.


In summary

Although what has been reported to date would suggest that the 35-hour working week did decrease levels of stress, in terms of not being as overworked and increasing the prospects of maintaining a successful work-life balance, new potential stressors may mean that the 35-hour week isn’t suitable for everyone.



If you are suffering from stress at work due to bullying, excessive workload or any other factor and your employer isn’t listening, get in touch today for a free initial consultation. Choose one of the methods on the right-hand side of this page, or call us on 0113 200 9720 to find out how we can help you.

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