On 1st January 2017 France brought into force a law on the “right to disconnect”, which aims at banning office emails outside working hours.
Conceived as a means to combat an increase in stress, linked to compulsive out-of-hours email checking, the new legislation requires all companies with more than 50 employees to start negotiations in order to define the rights of employees to ignore their smartphones out of working hours.
As is well known, replying to emails outside working hours is not usually considered as overtime and therefore generally remains unpaid. Moreover, employee availability during off-hours is nowadays considered “a duty” by many employers. For this reason the new law requires companies to reach an agreement with their employees, in which the out-of-hours times when employees are required to reply to office communications must be explicitly detailed. The new measure also aims to protect digital professionals, who work remotely and are therefore more exposed to off-hours calls.
The law was introduced after Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri had commissioned a report on the health impact of the uninterrupted flow of digital information, so-called “info-obesity”, coming from the workplace. The excessive use of digital devices on which employees are reachable 24/7 has been considered the cause of any number of health conditions from “burnout”, to sleeplessness and relationship problems.
A number of multinational companies based in France have already announced that they have already taken steps to put in place innovative solutions such as a “curfew” on evening communications or systems that automatically delete emails sent to employees when they are on holiday or not working.