The basic intention of the European directive behind this bill is to balance professional and personal life. Why do you say that there is a risk in introducing new leaves in the Luxembourg law?
Jean-Paul Olinger. - Basically, I agree with the quest for a better balance, but there are other ways to achieve it. It can be said that Luxembourg has a rather favourable social security system and a labour law that already allows for several days of leave, including compensated public holidays when they fall on a Sunday. Like any parent or carer, I can understand certain needs. But the number of special or extraordinary leaves has already increased significantly in recent years.
Most companies in Luxembourg are small and will find it difficult to adapt
The company needs its resources to cope with covid, the energy and digital transition, supply problems, an ageing population and a lack of qualified staff. The multiplication of authorised leaves creates absenteeism which disorganises the company, which will therefore produce less at a time when it needs to be more efficient. Most companies in Luxembourg are small and will find it difficult to adapt. There is a total mismatch between the challenges they face and the means to achieve their ambitions.
What do you recommend as an alternative to a reduction in working time?
An in-depth reflection on the flexibility of working time, which would be the responsibility of the employer, in agreement with the internal staff representatives, and not a law that is imposed on everyone, without distinction. We do not want a debate on the reduction, but on the organisation of working time. There are sectors of activity such as construction or Horesca [hotel, restaurant and café sector] which work more or less depending on the time of year.
We do not want a debate on the reduction, but on the organisation of working time
Looking at working time over an entire year is not possible under the current law, because the legal framework is still based on a factory economy dating back to the 19th century. However, there are some ideas that have already been launched: the four-day week, teleworking, flexible working hours. The 2016 law does not provide for flexibility beyond forty-eight hours per week, which must be smoothed out to forty hours over several weeks. Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER) has carried out a study on this issue which will be published in a few months. This could serve as a basis for further discussion.
Other collegiate bodies have submitted a public opinion to the Chamber. Is the Union des entreprises luxembourgeoises (UEL) likely to do so as well?
No, not directly. However, we have consulted with each other and are in line with the official collegial opinion of two of our members: the Chamber of Commerce (CdC) and the Chamber of Trades (CdM). The European directive was more about justified absence, but did not provide for compensatory payment. Like the Chambers, we believe that it is not the employer's responsibility to finance family policy. In 2018, we were able to discuss with the MPs before the addition of a day of leave. This time, the text is being imposed on us without any prior consultation."
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.