France has rejected an immigrant nurse’s application for citizenship on the grounds that she was working too many hours a week in breach of the statutory 35-hour week and strict limits on overtime.
The nurse, whose name and nationality have not been made public, holds three jobs and averages 59 hours a week, which the authorities said placed her “in violation of regulations on working time in France”.
The 35-hour rule introduced under a Socialist government in 2000 gave France one of the world’s shortest working weeks, but it has since been loosened and employees may be permitted to work up to 48 hours a week including overtime.
The Préfecture in Val-de Marne, near Paris, said in a letter to the nurse that it was “postponing” her naturalisation application for two years.
The letter was posted on social media by one of her friends, Nicolas Delage. “I find this scandalous,” Mr Delage told the online newspaper 20 Minutes. “One reason for granting [French] nationality is work. She is not stealing anyone’s work.”
Sanjay Navy, a lawyer, said immigrants were often denied naturalisation for working too many hours. “I’ve seen similar cases before this. This is not an isolated decision.”
Mr Navy said he had seen a number of naturalisation applications by security guards turned down because they had multiple employers and worked too many hours. According to the most recent official figures, some 63,000 immigrants were granted French citizenship in 2017.
The French are bitterly divided over the 35-hour week, which became a campaign issue in the 2017 presidential election. The unsuccessful conservative candidate, François Fillon, promised to abolish it, arguing that it caused economic stagnation. Emmanuel Macron, the victorious centrist, has stopped short of scrapping it but has introduced greater flexibility for companies to negotiate longer hours with staff.
An economy ministry report in April which revealed that more than 300,000 civil servants work less than 35 hours a week caused outrage among private-sector employees, many of whom say they regularly work longer hours to achieve their targets.
A baker in northern France was fined €3,000 (£2,700) last year for breaching legal limits on work hours by opening his bakery seven days a week.
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