A while back, we reported that France was considering a law that would make it illegal for employers to require employees to send or respond to emails outside of business hours. The so-called “right to disconnect” law was hotly debated – but now it’s law.
The amendment, which is part of a larger labor reform bill, bans companies that have 50 or more employees from sending emails after typical working hours. According to The Huffington Post, “Under the new law, companies are mandated to negotiate formal policies to limit the spillover of work, specifically as it’s related to “digital technology,” into the private lives of employees. This, according to the BBC, will involve companies establishing “charters of good conduct” specifying hours, typically in the evenings and weekends, when employees aren’t supposed to send or receive email.”
The amendment reads in part:
“The development of information and communication technologies, if badly managed or regulated, can have an impact on the health of workers. Among them, the burden of work and the informational overburden, the blurring of the borders between private life and professional life, are risks associated with the usage of digital technology.”
The law aims to tackle what the French government feels is a big issue: work-related stress. Benoit Hamon of the French National Assembly told the BBC earlier this month, “All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant. Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. 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.”
Right on, Mr. Hamon. You feel my pain. You understand that I haven’t fully taken a vacation…well, ever. Viva la France! Where’s my passport? I’m going to buy the French version of Rosetta Stone so I can learn how to properly order burrito in Francois. But of course, as my French (-Canadian) grandmother would say, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The problem? Well, it seems like the French may have a bit of trouble enforcing the new policy: there’s no method of enforcement included in the amendment and French companies are expected to simply voluntarily follow the new letter of the law…by not sending electronic letters after work hours.
So, it’s like a rule, but not really a rule? Like when my sorority in college told us we had to be sober at everything? What kind of a law is that? And more importantly, who the hell is going to follow it? My boss sure as hell wouldn’t. If we were in France, I imagine the conversation would go a little something like this:
Me: “Hey boss, you know, there is a law that says that you can’t email me after 5.”
Him: “Hey idiot, there’s no penalty for my sending an email after 5, but the penalty for you not answering it is getting fired. Your call.”
If you need me, I, like most French people apparently, will be at the bar checking my emails. So much for work/life balance. .
[via The Huffington Post]
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