Ignoring the Boss: Now Legal in France

In an effort to provide employees with some down time and separation between personal life and work life, a French law, which took effect January 1, takes technology to bed after work hours.  Employees now have legal protection should they choose to ignore the texts and phone messages from their boss that are sent after hours.

The law does not prevent employers from sending e-mails and other forms of communication, but employers with 50 or more employee must establish a protocol for their workplace that ensures that work does not spill over into after-hours and employees’ personal lives.

Consultants working with employers have advised that just eliminating the “Reply All” use when the boss communicates with several employees allows employees to respond, if they desire, to the boss without bringing in other employees. Alissa J. Rubin, "'Right to Disconnect' From Work Email and Other Laws Go Into Effect in France," New York Times, January 3, 2017, p. A6. 

Emotions run high with regard to the law.  France’s minister of education said that the law was necessary because employees were leashed “like dogs” to their work because of the 24-7 contact from their bosses. However, others see the law as yet another step by the French government to regulate all aspects of employment, something that increases costs of compliance by companies. For example, France has had a 35-hour work week since 2000, something that increased costs for companies and resulted in cutbacks of staff.  That work-week is under review because of record-high unemployment rates in France.  The tensions between those demanding workplace rights and companies trying to contain costs and remain competitive is at peak force in France.

The so-called “right to disconnect” had been proposed in the French Parliament in the past, but had not passed. The fear behind the legislation was that France would lose the ability to compete with countries, such as the United States, where that immediate responsiveness is part of a strategic and competitive business model in a 24-7 world. Generally, the European ideas do make their way into the United States, so the right to disconnect could become an issue here. However, as Matt Lauer of NBC's Today show noted, "Never work here."  

DISCUSSION STARTERS

Explain what the law requires and what employers will need to do to comply.

What are the issues in France regarding employer regulation?