Employees in France Can Now Legally Ignore Work E-mails Outside of Office Hours

French President François Hollande, seen on a iPad screen in Marseille, gestures as he gives his traditional New Year's speech in a prerecorded presentation. (Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters)
French President François Hollande, seen on a iPad screen in Marseille, gestures as he gives his traditional New Year’s speech in a prerecorded presentation. (Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters)

That 10 p.m. email from your boss? It’s your right to ignore it.

That Saturday ping from a colleague with “just one quick question?” A response on Monday should suffice.

If you’re in France, that is.

French workers rang in a new year at midnight — as well as a “right to disconnect” law that grants employees in the country the legal right to ignore work emails outside of typical working hours, according to the Guardian.

The new employment law requires French companies with more than 50 employees to begin drawing up policies with their workers about limiting work-related technology usage outside the office, the newspaper reported.

The motivation behind the legislation is to stem work-related stress that increasingly leaks into people’s personal time — and hopefully prevent employee burnout, French officials said.

“Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash, like a dog,” Benoit Hamon, Socialist member of Parliament and former French education minister, told the BBC in May. “The texts, the messages, the emails: They colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”

France has had a 35-hour workweek since 2000, but the policy came under scrutiny recently given France’s near-record-high unemployment rate.

The “right to disconnect” provision was packaged with new and controversial reforms introduced last year that were designed to relax some of the country’s strict labor regulations. The amendment regarding ignoring work emails was included by French Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri, who reportedly was inspired by similar policies at Orange, a French telecommunications company.

“There are risks that need to be anticipated, and one of the biggest risks is the balance of a private life and professional life behind this permanent connectivity,” Orange Director General Bruno Mettling told Europe1 radio in February. “Professionals who find the right balance between private and work life perform far better in their job than those who arrive shattered.”

The legislation passed the French lower parliamentary house in May. It was not the first time such a bill had been proposed, as The Washington Post’s Karen Turner reported. Similar legislation banning work-related emails after work hours had been introduced in France and Germany before but never made it to law.

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SOURCE: Amy B Wang 
The Washington Post