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.bredenkamp@freewestmedia.com

    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.

    New EU joint military fund shakes up Britain

    BrusselsEU countries are heading for greater defence integration and on Thursday approved the creation of a fund for joint military projects as part of the push known as the Cooperative Financial Mechanism.

    Migrants to be kept away from pro-immigration G7 leaders

    TaorminaThe leaders of G7 countries aren't taking any chances with "refugees" when it concerns their own safety.

    ‘Crimea can soon be the Russian Monaco’

    INTERVIEWAndrey Nazarov, co-chair of the All-Russian Civic Organisation “Business Russia” (Delovaya Rossiya) in an exclusive Free West Media-interview about the huge business opportunities for the Russian peninsula Crimea.

    Belgian minister suggests closing migrant smuggling routes

    BrusselsBelgium’s migration minister Theo Francken told Reuters on Thursday that African migrants should be turned back if they pay human traffickers to cross the Mediterranean into the EU

    Donbass wants to be part of Russia again

    The leaders of independent republics Donetsk and Lugansk see their long term future with the Russian Federation.

    Childless leaders are steering Europe

    ParisThree world leaders now have the distinction of being childless at an historical time in Europe.

    Marion Maréchal-Le Pen quits Front National

    ParisMarion Maréchal-Le Pen, the niece of Marine Le Pen has announced that she will not stand for reelection to the French parliament, Le Figaro reported on Tuesday.

    Jean-Marie Le Pen blames wrong focus on EU for Marine’s loss

    ParisJean-Marie Le Pen, believes his daughter Marine, who lost in the French presidential election on Sunday to Emmanuel Macron, should have focused on unemployment and immigration instead of the European Union. The EU is still popular in France, even among Front National voters despite its problems.

    French Electoral Commission bans publication of huge Macron hack

    A non-judicial state body in France has threatened French publishers with criminal prosecution, after some 9 gigabytes of private emails from Emmanuel Macron were leaked late Friday evening, less than two days before polls open in the final ballot in the country.

    Vice-Speaker of the Duma: ‘Syria will get better air defence’

    Russia plans to provide sophisticated air-defence systems to Syria, which might escalate global tensions, admits the vice-speaker of the country's parliament.

    Go to archive