France, which has a 35 hour working week, passed a law in the New Year changing how employees respond to work outside of their contracted hours. The new ‘Right to Disconnect’ law states that companies with over 50 employees must create a timetable in which it clearly states the times in which employees can, and cannot, reply to emails.
The law arose out of concern that the people who willingly checked their emails outside of working hours were not being fairly paid overtime, compared to a colleague at the same level, on the same wage, who would not check emails after they had left the workplace. Further reasons for the introduction of the law include protection for employees; it is believed that checking your emails once you have left the workplace can lead to being over worked, resulting in stress, sleeping difficulties and other mental health issues, with the potential for relationship difficulties to ensue as a result.
There are already precedents for companies limiting the amount of ‘out-of-work time’ spent responding to emails. The German company Daimler gave an alternative to sending an out of office reply when an email was received. Instead, employees could set up their emails to simply delete anything received out of office hours.
Whilst the foreign press mocked this new law at first, it was defended heavily by the French population who cited reasons that may actually be rather relatable. With the ever advancing use of technology, the lines between a work and life balance have been blurred. A partner at a Management Consultants firm perfectly articulates that “at home the workplace can be the kitchen or the bathroom or the bedroom. We shift from a work email to a personal WhatsApp to a Facebook picture to a professional text-all on the same tool”, pointing out just how easy it is for our work to consume our personal life.
However, people have criticised the law stating that the consequences of responding to emails out of hours have been largely exaggerated and that the work individuals have to catch up on once they have returned to work results in the build-up of much more stress.
So what is your view? Are you a supporter of the ‘Right to Disconnect’, or do you have no qualms about checking your emails out of hours?