French Law Makes It Illegal To Contact Employees After Work Hours

France’s “right to disconnect” law mandates that a company with 50 employees or more cannot email an employee after typical work hours.

If you’ve ever been with friends or family members over the weekend then received an urgent email from work, you’re aware of the dread that fills your stomach and causes your mood to dip. Being unable to fully disconnect from work can have mental and physical health implications, which is why unwarranted contact by the workplace is soon to become illegal in France.

Already, the country gives its employees 30 days off a year and 16 weeks of full-paid family leave; this latest initiative is only making France more popular.  According to BBC News, the new “right to disconnect” law will mandate that a company with 50 employees or more cannot email an employee after typical work hours. The amendment is largely a result of studies showing that people have an increasingly difficult time distancing themselves from the workplace.

Good relays that the law seeks to make sure the French citizens are able to fully enjoy their time off.  Said Benoit Hamon of the French National Assembly: “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.”

Stipulations of the new law include that companies must negotiate policies that limit the spillover of work into the private lives of their employees. There are no penalties for companies that violate the amendment, but the businesses are required to establish “charters of good conduct” that specify the times which employees are completely free from being contacted by their workplace.

When the law was first proposed, it received plenty of criticism and mockery. According to Linh Le, a partner at Elia management consultants in Paris, however, the amendment is necessary, particularly because it could benefit citizens’ mental and physical well-being. She says that burnout, described as ”physical, psychological and emotional distress caused by a total inability to rest”, can result from never being fully free from work, which is why time away from the office is required.

Some are concerned that the amendment – passed as part of a controversial French labor law – will weaken unions and enhance employee job insecurity. It is worth noting, however, that the digital disconnect amendment was the one part of the law that’s been viewed favorably by French citizens.

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