Skip to Content

FreeImages

French employees win the ‘right to disconnect’

A constant barrage of messages, calls on weekends, or emails in the middle of the night, French employees are finding it increasingly difficult to remain off-duty outside their working hours.

Published: January 1, 2017, 7:09 am

    French employers have exploited smart phones to squeeze extra unpaid work from their employers, just a touch screen away, but a new law may spell the end of that.

    For the first time in the world, an employee will no longer be blamed for not responding to messages or calls outside his or her working hours.

    Companies will be required to guarantee a “right to disconnect” to their employees as from January 1. The new employment law will oblige organisations with more than 50 employees to start negotiations on the right to ignore calls on their smartphones.

    The grey area of digital communication contributing to work hours, have left many employees uncertain of when they can switch off.

    Although digital platforms give employees much more flexibility to work from home or outside the office, the “always-on” work culture has led to employers taking advantage of unpaid overtime.

    “The digital transition has had an impact on the constituent elements of the employment contract, which are the place and time of work and the link of subordination,” Patrick Thiébart of the law firm Jeantet, specializing in labor law, told the French newspaper Libération.

    In an editorial on Friday Liberation welcomed the new law, saying “employees are often judged on their committment to their companies and their availability”.

    The measure was introduced by Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri, after a report in September 2015 warning about the health impact of “info-obesity”.

    “There’s a real expectation that companies will seize on the ‘right to disconnect’ as a protective measure,” said Xavier Zunigo, a French workplace expert, told AFP. “At the same time, workers don’t want to lose the autonomy and flexibility that digital devices give them,” added Zunigo, director of the research group Aristat.

    In a world invaded by new technologies where you can pick up your smartphone at any time, including during your holidays to respond to a client or your supervisor, burnout has increased dramatically in recent years. In France, more than 12 percent of the working population is affected by this syndrome, which is not recognized as a professional disease in its own right, Le Figaro reported.

    The borderline between a private sphere and a professional sphere is increasingly porous: 37 percent of working people use their professional digital tools every day outside of work, according to a recent study. And 62 percent of the workforce, a very large majority of managers, have demanded regulation of the use of digital tools outside of work.

    If a deal cannot be reached, the company must publish a charter that would explicitly outline the demands on and rights of employees out-of-hours. But no sanction will await companies which fail to define it.

    Volkswagen and Daimler in Germany, nuclear power company Areva and insurer Axa in France have already taken steps to limit out-of-hours messaging to reduce burnout among workers.

    Some measures currently in place even include cutting email connections in the evening and weekends or even destroying emails automatically that are sent to employees while they are on holiday, according to AFP.

    Working with colleagues in other time zones, is a however another matter.

    karin@praag.org

    Keep ​your language polite​. Readers from many different countries visit and contribute to Free West Media and we must therefore obey the rules in​,​ for example​, ​Germany. Illegal content will be deleted.

    If you have been approved to post comments without preview from FWM, you are responsible for violation​s​ of​ any​ law. This means that FWM may be forced to cooperate with authorities in a possible crime investigation.

    If your comments are subject to preview ​by FWM, please be patient. We continually review comments but depending on the time of day it can take up to several hours before your comment is reviewed.

    We reserve the right to del​ete​ comments that are offensive, contain slander or foul language, or are irrelevant to the discussion.

    Migrants refuse to clean their own toilets in Dutch shelter

    AlkmaarEight very angry, unwashed migrants in jogging pants gathered in the shared kitchen of the asylum seekers' center in Alkmaar, the Netherlands to complain about having to clean toilets, a Dutch daily reported.

    NATO preparing a ‘military Schengen’

    The US has significantly boosted its forces in Europe, while preparing a "military Schengen" to allow easy movement across borders.

    ‘Refugees’ are not paying German pensions but contributing to poverty

    Germans were promised that an influx of migrants would solve the country's imploding demography. But instead pensioners are bearing the brunt of the wave of newcomers, not benefitting from it.

    Five nights of violence in Toulouse after arrest of niqab-wearer

    ToulouseA police patrol in the southern city of Toulouse, France arrested a woman wearing a niqab last weekend because she refused to show her face. The arrest, which took place in the city’s migrant populated Mirail suburb, sparked five consecutive nights of violence.

    Mayor of Naples refuses docking of US nuclear submarine

    NaplesA nuclear submarine that took part in a series of missile strikes conducted by US, French and UK warships and warplanes against Syria in contravention of the UN Charter, is not welcome near the waters of one of Italy's largest seaports, according to the popular mayor of Naples.

    American survey exposes growing grim mood in Ukraine

    An American Republican survey has exposed the mood in Ukraine: It is currently bad and respondents are expecting worse.

    Italy and Germany threaten to end ‘absurd’ Russia sanctions

    The leader of Lega Nord Matteo Salvini will put an end to “absurd” EU sanctions against Russia if he becomes prime minister of the country he said.

    Pressure increases on Britain to explain strange ‘Novichok’ claims

    Britain needs to show proof that Russia was behind the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in England, the German government’s coordinator for Russia told German broadcaster ARD on Thursday.

    Migrant identity fraud: From a child to a woman to a man

    An African asylum seeker in France has been sentenced to four months in prison for identity fraud after he claimed that he was underage, then an adult and then switching his gender from female to male.

    Worse than the Cuban crisis, but the West’s population is kept in the dark

    An informative Swedish weekly has revealed the high drama - worse than the Cuban crisis - that enveloped the world in March while the West's population was being kept ignorant.

    Go to archive