Money

Under French Law, Businesses Can’t Email Employees After Work Hours

by Tod Perry

November 11, 2017
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Nothing can ruin a relaxing weekend or holiday like an email from the office. Even if there’s no need to take action until Monday, the unwanted intrusion of professional life can really suck the joy out of a Sunday afternoon barbecue.

That’s why the country that’s famous for giving its employees 30 days off a year and 16 weeks of full-paid family leave in May 2016 made itself even cooler with its new “right to disconnect” rule.

In France, if you’re a company of 50 employees or more, you cannot email an employee after typical work hours. The labor law amendment has come about because studies show that in the digital age, it’s increasingly difficult for people to distance themselves from the workplace during their off hours. This new provision allows people to get the full advantage of their time off.

“All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant,” Benoit Hamon of the French National Assembly told the BBC. “Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash — like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails — they colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”

The rule stipulates that companies must negotiate policies that limit the spillover of work into their employees’ private lives. Although there are no penalties for violations, companies are to establish “charters of good conduct” that specify the times which employees are free from being digitally connected to their workplaces.

This right to disconnect amendment was passed as part of a controversial French labor law that some say will weaken unions and enhance employee job insecurity. The digital disconnect amendment was the one part of the law that’s been viewed favorably by the French public. 

Note: This article originally appeared on ​May 16, 2017.

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