French workers gain the right to ignore work email on weekends

Welcome back to the office. If you’re anything like me you have the cruel double whammy of an intimidating stack of emails facing you just as you’re trying to remember how to type a coherent sentence. Of course, there’s also the chance you’ve spent your holidays diligently checking your emails, trying to stay on top of things out of careful forward planning or a sense of guilt/duty. If it was the latter, and you live in France, then good news: you can now let your true nature go hog wild.

Effective as of Sunday, a new law introduced by Labour minister Myriam El Khomri gives workers the right to ignore business emails that arrive out of office hours. The “right to disconnect” means that firms with 50 or more employees will be required to negotiate out-of-office email guidelines with staff, and will now have a responsibility to ensure that employees get a break from office life. If no deal can be agreed, firms will have to publish a charter defining and regulating when employees can switch off from the world of work.french_disconnect_emails_out_of_office

“These measures are designed to ensure respect for rest periods and … balance between work and family and personal life,” France’s Ministry of Labour said in a statement.

It will be interesting to see how impactful the new law is. Although protections from the tyranny of the always-on email is something that French trade unions have sought for some time, there are no penalties for companies that do not comply with the new regulations.

There’s also nothing to stop employees from checking emails routinely out of habit, of course. Should companies truly want to fully mandate relaxation time though, there are a couple of models they could follow. The Telegraph reports that firms such as Volkswagen, Daimler, Areva and Axa have already taken unilateral steps to solve the problem: cutting email connections in evenings and weekends, or even automatically destroying emails sent to employees on holiday.

Images: Alex Guibord used under Creative Commons

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