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.

    Van rams into holidaymakers in Barcelona, police foil second attack

    The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Barcelona attack in which 13 people were killed and over a hundred pedestrians injured when a white van rammed into unsuspecting holidaymakers.

    OSCE Monitor on Ukraine: Deadly violence has doubled since last year

    INTERVIEWInterview with Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.

    Cars as weapons: Could hackers be part of the growing problem?

    A car crashed through the front of a pizzeria on Monday evening in Seine-et-Marne, near Paris, killing a teenage girl. The 32-year-old male driver is believed to have "intentionally" crashed into the terrace on Rue du Commerce, Sept-Sorts in a "drugged state".

    Oligarch in trouble

    MOSCOWMoscow: Russian national oil company Rosneft joins a historical law battle against oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov

    MSF suspends its migrant rescue operations off Libyan coast

    RomeDoctors Without Borders (MSF) will suspend its migrant rescues in the Mediterranean, the organisation declared on Saturday after Italian government moved to halt the human trafficking from North Africa.

    Journalist who exposed German government bias in media coverage faces backlash

    German-Dutch freelance reporter Claudia Zimmermann faced innumerable hardships after exposing her employer, German public broadcaster WDR, for Soviet-style censorship of the migrant crisis. Zimmermann faced rejected contributions, calls to boycott her and even a public letter refuting her reporting which she says had been strictly factual.

    Knife crime surges in London with migrant influx

    LondonThe Weekly Standard (WS), a British daily, reported that the recent influx of African migrants, particularly from Somalia and the Congo, has caused a spike in knife crimes.

    Italian PM met Soros in secret as web of Soros-funded NGO’s is exposed

    RomeThe Italian Prime Minister met with George Soros in secret in May, just as concerned Italians were beginning to expose the spiderweb of Soros-funded NGO's operating in the country to promote immigration.

    Poland not considering deployment of US missiles, says minister

    WarsawPoland is not considering the deployment of US medium-and short-range missiles on its territory for the moment, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told the Kommersant business daily.

    Libyan general threatens to bomb Italian vessels as chats between smugglers and NGOs surface

    Libyan General Khalifa Haftar has ordered his faction to bomb Italian vessels deployed in a mission to provide naval support to Libya, according to a tweet published by broadcaster Al Arabiya. The announcement comes after Italy impounded a German NGO vessel on suspicion of human trafficking.

    Go to archive