New law gives French workers right to ignore work emails after hours

EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT

French Labour Minister Myriam el Khomri arrives at the Elysee Palace after a cabinet meeting in Paris, France.

New law gives French workers right to ignore work emails after hours


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New legislation in France gives employees the right not to check work emails while at home or on holiday. The measure came into effect on January 1.

As reported by the International Business Times, it is part of a set of labour laws passed in May by French Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri.

Based on the new rules, companies with over 50 workers are required to draft a charter of good conduct, setting the hours when staff is not supposed to send or answer emails. In case a deal cannot be reached, the organisation has to publish a charter making explicit what is demanded of the employees and their rights out of work hours.

Since 2000, France has a working week of 35 hours, but critics say employees feel obligated to deal with work emails even after work without being paid for these “hidden hours.” The new measure is expected to tackle this “always-on” work culture.

A study published by French research group Eleas in October showed that over a third of French workers used their devices everyday to do work after hours. About 60% of workers were in favour of regulation to clarify their rights in this context. This work culture is also blamed for lifestyle issues like burnouts and sleeplessness along with relationship problems.

“There’s a real expectation that companies will seize on the ‘right to disconnect’ as a protective measure,” Xavier Zunigo, a French workplace expert and director of research group Aristat, told the Guardian.

“At the same time, workers don’t want to lose the autonomy and flexibility that digital devices give them,” Zunigo added, explaining the flip side of digital aversion.

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