France gives employees ‘right to disconnect’ from work emails
The new employment law grants workers the legal right to ignore work emails outside of typical working hours.
That 10 p.m. email from your boss? It’s your right to ignore it.
That Saturday ping from a colleague with “just one quick question?” A response on Monday should suffice.
If you’re in France, that is.
rang in a new year at midnight — as well as a “right to disconnect” law
that grants employees in the country the legal right to ignore work
emails outside of typical working hours, according to the Guardian.
new employment law requires French companies with more than 50
employees to begin drawing up policies with their workers about limiting
work-related technology usage outside the office, the newspaper
motivation behind the legislation is to stem work-related stress that
increasingly leaks into people’s personal time — and hopefully prevent
employee burnout, French officials said.
physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They
remain attached by a kind of electronic leash, like a dog,” Benoit
Hamon, Socialist member of Parliament and former French education
minister, told the BBC in May. “The texts, the messages, the emails:
They colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she
eventually breaks down.”
France has had a
35-hour workweek since 2000, but the policy came under scrutiny recently
given France’s near-record-high unemployment rate.
“right to disconnect” provision was packaged with new and controversial
reforms introduced last year that were designed to relax some of the
country’s strict labour regulations. The amendment regarding ignoring
work emails was included by French Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri, who
reportedly was inspired by similar policies at Orange, a French
risks that need to be anticipated, and one of the biggest risks is the
balance of a private life and professional life behind this permanent
connectivity,” Orange Director General Bruno Mettling told Europe1 radio
in February. “Professionals who find the right balance between private
and work life perform far better in their job than those who arrive
The legislation passed the
French lower parliamentary house in May. It was not the first time such a
bill had been proposed, as The Washington Post’s Karen Turner reported.
Similar legislation banning work-related emails after work hours had
been introduced in France and Germany before but never made it to law.
move received criticism from some who worried that French workers would
get left behind bycompetitors in other countries where such
restrictions did not exist. Still others objected to government
“In France, we are champions
at passing laws, but they are not always very helpful when what we need
is greater flexibility in the workplace,” Olivier Mathiot, chief
executive of PriceMinister, a Paris-based online marketplace, told BBC
News in May.
Mathiot told the news site its
company had implemented “no-email Fridays” and felt the problem should
have been handled through education, not legislation.
However, supporters of the bill said it would be an important move toward minimizing work-related stress among French employees.
home the workspace can be the kitchen or the bathroom or the bedroom,”
Linh Le, a partner at Elia management consultants in Paris, told BBC
News. “You’re at home but you’re not at home, and that poses a real
are expected to comply with the law on a voluntary basis, and there are
no penalties yet for violating it, BBC reported.
the spring, news of France’s “right to disconnect” legislation prompted
some discussion about whether anything like it could be viable in the
Hosts on the Today
show didn’t think so when they discussed the incoming French law on a
segment in May — while simultaneously riding stationary bikes in support
of “Red Nose Day,” an unrelated campaign.
[law] would never work here,” host Matt Lauer told his colleagues, as
they all sweated and pedalled through the entirety of their live