Right to no emails after work

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.

French workers 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.

The 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 reported.

The 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.

“Employees 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.

The “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 telecommunications company.

“There are 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 shattered.”

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.

The move received criticism from some who worried that French workers would get left behind by competitors in other countries where such restrictions did not exist. Still others objected to government interference.

“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.

“At 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 threat to relationships.”

French companies are expected to comply with the law on a voluntary basis, and there are no penalties yet for violating it, BBC reported.

In the spring, news of France’s “right to disconnect” legislation prompted some discussion about whether anything like it could be viable in the United States.

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.

“That [law] would never work here,” host Matt Lauer told his colleagues, as they all sweated and pedalled through the entirety of their live television broadcast.


Comments

brigida said…
I agree with this decision,It´s not my case right now. But, years ago, my bosses sent me whastapps at 10:30 pm or called me on a Sunday afternoon. From my personal experience it´s really weird when you are in a bar and you need to talk to your boss or being in your pyjamas, talking about caselaw... A friend of mine wrote and article in a newspaper and I read last weekend. In his opinion, we should think what we consider working time and some mecanism should be done to count these working hours outside the officine.

On the other side, I have friends who ocasionnally work with South America and they got emails at 11.00 pm or 12.00 pm and they say they can not leave them waiting for the answer for twelve hours. It´s the problem in globalized world. :(
Anonymous said…
Right to no emails after work

Hi Graham, I consider this post very interesting because reveals how is truly our world. Certainly, everything had changed quickly in our world because the digital revolution has had a strong effect. We only have to remember how life was in the eighties, before Internet. Now, it looks incredible to live without connection among ourselves, only basic telephone, but we were as happy as today or happier, perhaps...

The current times are, of course, different, especially in the world of work, where the workers face to stressful labours because the information is being continually renovated. The origin of this unpleasant situation is Internet and the using of emails. I absolutely agree with the France legislator’s point of view that wants require a new legislation which does not allow using emails outside of working hours. As a professor, I have a great amount of experiences about this problem. I can receive emails of my students on Saturday at midnight, in the summer or when I’m on the beach, for example. The students think that we are available all the time.

But in the article we can find another subject very illuminating of our times. The point is: can one nation propose a bill like this without considering the economic consequence? Of course, the France workers would live better (fantastic!!) with the new law, but what will happen when the France company have to compete with the companies of other countries where this law doesn’t exist? Probably, the France products will be more expensive because the productivity will be lower (less work hours= less production). This is the typical problem of globalization I don’t believe that Donal Trump, Farage, Le Pen, etc., etc. have good solutions for resolve it.
José Luis professor
Graham said…
Hi Brigida,

All employers should understand that we have a life outside of the workplace. I am not convinced that new laws are necessary to resolve the problem though.


I agree with this decision. It´s not my case right now, but some years ago my bosses sent me whatsapps at 10:30 pm or called me on a Sunday afternoon.

From my personal experience, it´s really weird when you are in a bar and you need to talk to your boss or being in your pyjamas, talking about a law case...

A friend of mine wrote an article in a newspaper which I read last weekend. In his opinion, we should think what we consider working time and some mechanism should be set up to count these working hours outside the office.

On the other hand, I have friends who occasionally work with South America and they get emails at 11.00 pm or 12.00 pm and they say they can not leave them waiting for the answer for twelve hours. It´s the problem in a globalized world. :(

Graham said…
Hi José Luis,

Everyone should have the right to enjoy their free time without being bothered by work-related stuff. I don't know if legislation is needed though.

You make a good point about the problem of French companies which do business internationally.


I consider this post very interesting because it reveals what our world is really like. Certainly, everything has changed quickly in our world because the digital revolution has had a strong effect. We only have to remember how life was in the eighties, before Internet. Now, it seems incredible to live without connection among ourselves, only basic telephone, but we were as happy as today or happier, perhaps...

The current times are, of course, different, especially in the world of work, where the workers face stressful labours because information is being continually uodated. The origin of this unpleasant situation is Internet and the use of emails. I absolutely agree with the French legislator’s point of view that demands new legislation which does not allow using emails outside of working hours. As a professor, I have a great amount of experiences about this problem. I can receive emails from my students on Saturday at midnight, in the summer or when I’m on the beach, for example. The students think that we are available all the time.

But in the article we can find another subject which is very illuminating of our times. The point is: can one nation propose a bill like this without considering the economic consequences? Of course, French workers would live better (fantastic!!) with the new law, but what will happen when the French company has to compete with companies of other countries where this law doesn’t exist? Probably, French products will be more expensive because the productivity will be lower (less work hours = less production). This is the typical problem of globalization I don’t believe that Donald Trump, Farage, Le Pen, etc., etc. have good solutions to resolve it.