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Two million vacation days, one hospital: How sweet it is to be French

Oh, to be Français: Employees at the Hopital Vaugirard, a public hospital in Paris, have accrued two million vacation days in the past ten years, according to a report from NPR.

That's 5,475 years of vacation time, The Atlantic gleefully pointed out.

But it hasn't been all that simple for the hospital employees in question: "For the last decade we haven't been able to take all our days off because we don't have enough personnel to fill in," a nurse told NPR. "So the days keep building up and some people literally have hundreds to take."

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On top of a basic (and glorious) five weeks of annual leave, French employees have in the past been owed whatever overtime they worked over their 35-hour work weeks.

But the clock is ticking: "By law, that overtime needs to be taken by the end of 2012, but that would mean closing hospitals for months on end," wrote NPR's Eleanor Beardsley.

France's 35-hour work week has been very popular with employees – shocker –but also been blamed for putting the country at a competitive disadvantage.

President Nicolas Sarkozy campaigned against it in 2007, recently telling a crowd, "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."

While a law passed in 2008 by France's ruling conservatives allowed employers to demand that workers spend more time at work, "35 hours remains the reference length of the French workweek." A poll cited by NPR showed that despite economic disadvantages, 57 per cent of the French still wouldn't give up their 35-hour work weeks.

How many vacation days are you owed? How do you handle your overtime?

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