Are the French leading the way with the new “Right to Disconnect” law?

For many of us that have enjoyed a prolonged break from work over the Christmas period, it may not always have been that easy to switch off from the office with emails frequently pinging their way onto our smartphones. It’s something that can be hard to get away from during any annual leave, or even just in the evenings or at weekends. A lot of us may feel it’s expected of us, particularly in a global, time-irrelevant marketplace.

As of January 1st 2017, the French have introduced a new law which gives employees the legal right to avoid work emails outside of normal working hours. Known as the “right to disconnect” it has been introduced with strong support. It was felt that employees who were expected to monitor their work emails outside of office hours and respond accordingly were not being paid the equivalent of “overtime”. Employers who have more than 50 workers are now required to draw up a charter of good conduct which sets out the hours when staff are not supposed to deal with work emails.

It remains to be seen whether the law will have any significant impact: as things stand, there is no penalty for violating it. But it is hoped that the reported incidences of workplace stress, a major and growing concern, will decrease with the introduction of the new measure.

There are no plans in the UK, or anywhere else that we are currently aware of, to introduce such a measure, but it will be interesting to see the results in France and whether this, or some similar restriction on out-of-office communications is worthy of consideration by employees.

We’d be interested to hear what policies, if any, your business has in place to help reduce the out-of-hours burden for employees.


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