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The French “right to disconnect”

The French “right to disconnect”

Since 1 January 2017, organisations in France with more than 50 workers are obliged to negotiate with employees to scope out the rights of employees to ignore their smartphones and emails following a report warning about the impact of “info-obesity” on the health of employees.

Under the new law, employees must be guaranteed a right to disconnect. The new legislation aims to improve work-life balance and to prevent burn-out by tackling the modern day “always on” culture. The internet and modern day technology have revolutionised the way we do business thereby resulting in a significant amount of unpaid overtime for employees as a result of flexibility to work outside the office.

If a deal cannot be reached, the organisation must publish a charter that makes clear the demands on, and rights of, employees out-of-hours. However, the new “right to disconnect” does not impose any penalties for those organisations who fail to comply.

It has been reported that some companies in France have already taken steps to limit out-of-hours messaging to reduce burn-out among workers. It will be interesting to see how the “right to disconnect “ develops in France given the competing demands of employees for protection and flexibility. Some employees relish the opportunity to work late in the evening and take a couple of hours off in the day (for example, to collect their children from school) or start early to get ahead where as others want strict working hours and do not wish to remain attached to their working day through their smartphone and emails.