As the recession bites in France, members of the ruling UMP party have suggested some controversial ways to save money. The party's spokesman (pictured) has proposed employees should now be able to work from home while on maternity or sick leave.
Only five days after the birth of her daughter, French Justice Minister Rachida Dati was back at work. Her move sparked a national debate in France and many said her example could undermine hard-won and generous maternity rights.
But it's an approach Frederic Lefebvre, the spokesman for France's ruling UMP party, would like to see more of. As the French parliament examines new work legislation, Lefebvre backed an amendment allowing employees on sick or maternity leave continue to work from home.
"During sick leave you are stuck at home but have lost none of your intellectual capacities, nor your energy […]. Instead of taking a long time off work, you could continue to work from home," said Lefebvre.
Lefebvre says he wants to give workers new rights. But the proposal caused an outcry in France. If employees opt to work from home, their employer would benefit by paying less taxes, and the state would have to pay less sick pay, French trade unions say.
"But the objective is what? The objective is to reduce the expenditure of health insurance,” said Jean-Claude Mailly, general secretary of a French trade union (Force Ouvriere). “If you can work from home when you are sick, they are saying that you aren't really sick! One day they will try and get dead people to work! Of course I'm exaggerating here but that's because I think this proposal is absurd!" he said.
On Monday evening, a parliamentary commission rejected the amendment amid widespread criticism in the Socialist camp.
Date created : 2009-05-26