The four-day week applied in France? Attal opens a door

Gabriel Attal announced the launch of an experiment on the “four-day week” in ministries.

The four-day week applied in France? Attal opens a door

Gabriel Attal announced the launch of an experiment on the “four-day week” in ministries. Already tested in certain structures, this new organization could be less successful than expected.

The four-day week will be implemented in the ministries. This is one of the projects announced by Gabriel Attal during his general policy speech to the National Assembly on Tuesday January 30. The experiment is attractive on paper, but one detail deserves to be clarified: the Prime Minister wishes to test “not the 4-day week, but the 4-day week”.

What is the difference ? The first consists of reducing working time by one day, or by 7 or 8 hours, per week, while the second involves keeping the same number of working hours, but spreading them over four days instead of five. It is this second option that the Prime Minister chose for the experiment.

Gabriel Attal was inspired by an experiment already carried out at Urssaf in Picardie in March 2023, when he was Minister of Public Accounts. All eligible employees – managers were excluded from the test – could then volunteer to work a four-day week. By distributing the 36 hours of work per week, the volunteers found themselves with four days of 9 hours of work to complete. After a month of testing, the experiment turned out to be a “total fiasco” in the words of Anne-Sophie Rousseau, deputy director of the structure, at Le Figaro. Only three employees had adopted the four-day week.

The main pitfall of the experiment within the Urssaf of Picardy was the overly long working days to which were added the travel times, sometimes significant, and the lunch break. A schedule that is difficult to reconcile with family life and difficult to keep for parents of young children, because it is out of sync with school schedules. If the four-day week did not work as well as expected, it would also be because another option was offered to employees and was more successful: a 39-hour week over five days with 20 additional days of RTT. per year.

If Gabriel Attal returns to the charge with the experiment of the four-day week, it is because the idea of ​​working one less day in the week appeals to the French. A survey carried out by YouGov for Huffpost in May 2023 indicated that 75% of French people were in favor of a four-day week “on the condition of maintaining an unchanged salary”. The share of people open to this new organization of work even rose to more than 80% among 18-24 year olds and 25-34 year olds.

These figures had been confirmed with Urssaf employees in Picardy, 75% of whom “found the idea interesting” at the time of the experiment. The fact remains that despite the interest in the four-day week, only 25% of employees said they were "personally interested" in this new organization.

And the enthusiasm around the four-day week diminishes when it is not a question of working less, but of spreading working hours over four days instead of five. The French are now only 52% in favor of this new organizational model according to the same survey. And 23% indicate they are for the four-day week, but only if the weekly working time is also reduced.