France Might Give Employees the Legal Right to Ignore Work Emails During Personal Time

As our world becomes increasingly connected, so too does the expectation that we should be accessible 24/7.

Gone are the 9-5 confines when it comes to conducting business at many companies.

In recognizing the importance and basic right to disconnect, France’s labour minister, Myriam El Khomri, is including a provision that would give employees the right to ignore professional emails and other messages when outside the office. It’s part of a handful of new reforms.

The reform would specify a division between work and home, and between private life and public life.

El Khomri was apparently inspired by a report by Bruno Mettling, a director general in charge of human resources at telecommunications giant Orange, who advocates the policy, claiming that employees likely to suffer “psychosocial risks” from an endless cycle of communication.

I’ve seen the potential of this happening – in everything from interrupted family dinners, to the anxiety of anticipating a work email (and subsequent work) on a bright, sunny Saturday.

When it comes to the workplace, France is already famous for its 35-hour workweek, although this comes with the expectation that employees will continue to work remotely to compensate for lost time in many companies. In light of the country’s stagnant economy and close to record-high unemployment rates, the policy (which has been in place since the 1990s) has come under scrutiny recently.

At the same time, the distinction between work hours and personal hours is also the subject of a growing and heightened awareness. Appropriately, some companies both in France and globally have the “disconnect rule” in place. as Mettling told Europe 1 Radio (according to The Toronto Star), “Professionals who find the right balance between private and work life perform far better in their job than those who arrive shattered.”

One thing’s for sure, it looks like Canadian tech companies are certainly starting to agree.