Exemplifying a problem created by France's generous vacation and overtime rules the employees of the Hopital Vaugirard in Paris have accumulated 2 million days off, reports NPR's Renée Montagne on Morning Edition. French workers get comped vacation time added to their base five weeks of annual leave if they work longer than the mandated 35-hour work week and apparently even the French can't take all of that time off in a year. Nevertheless, "By law, they must take those days off by the end of this year, but that could mean closing hospitals for months."
Just to put 2 million days into perspective, that's 5,475 years of vacation time. There's no indication of how many employees are sharing that pool of vacation time, but if it were just one, they'd just be finishing a stint of paid time off that started in B.C. 3467, that is just around the time when the Sumerians invented writing and the Sahara started turning into a desert. (Yes, these facts were significantly more difficult to gather without the use of Wikipedia.)
The French government is currently in negotiation with unions to keep hospitals open and in the midst of economic downturn French society is debating the merits of the 35-hour work week, now in its 12th year. But that isn't stopping President Nicolas Sarkozy, who campaigned on too much vacation time in 2007, from attacking it. "I tell you this because it is a pure fact: lowering the retirement age to 60 and the 35-hour work week were serious mistakes that we are still paying heavily for."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.