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Starting In 2017, French Workers Will Be Legally Protected From Off-Hours Work Email

01/01/2017 7:00 AM AEDT | Updated 01/01/2017 7:00 AM AEDT
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One study found that more than a third of French employees worked online outside of their regular hours. 

Beginning Sunday, workers in France will have legal protections to avoid checking their email inboxes outside of their regular working hours.

The so-called right to disconnect law, passed earlier this year, requires companies with more than 50 workers to establish more formal policies outlining when employees can be expected to reply to work email and other digital missives.

While the country officially limits the workweek to 35 hours ― an initiative originally intended to combat joblessness ― it seems digital spillover from the office risks making the law moot.

“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 in May, when the plan was being considered.

Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash — like a dog.

Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work,” Hamon continued. “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.”

It’s unclear how the law will be enforced. Agence France-Presse notes the law doesn’t specify particular sanctions for companies that fail to uphold it.

Unsurprisingly, one survey found that around 60 percent of French workers support measures clarifying their rights, with AFP reporting more than a third of them work online outside of business hours on a daily basis. 

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