The right to disconnect in France and the 24x7 global marketplace

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Posted on Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A new law came into force on January 1st, giving French employees the right to ‘disconnect’ when not at work. Under the new legislation, workers cannot be expected to read or respond to email outside their contracted working hours.

Some commentators have commended the move, suggesting that businesses in the US and beyond could learn from France. Similar measures have been trialled on a business-by-business case (most notably Germany), but this is the first time employees have been legally entitled to refuse to work when they are supposed to be off the clock.

An important right for employees

The reality is that employees do need downtime if they are to continue performing to the best of their ability. Individuals who are available 7/24 are much more likely to experience burnout, making costly mistakes in the process.

For the sake of employee welfare, businesses should consider following the precedent set by the Paris courts. But is a total ban realistic?

The modern world is 7/24/365

The reality is that modern business does operate 7/24/365, particularly when dealing with overseas markets. The time difference between Los Angeles (GMT -7) and Paris (GMT +1) is significant enough to prevent much overlap of the working day – which means that someone has to start early or finish late to get the job done.

Just ask your CTO about the problems of keeping infrastructure running around the clock to service a global customer base.

The new French laws are a step in the right direction, but only time will tell if they can actually meet the needs of modern business. It will be interesting to see if any other countries follow suit, or whether they decide that legislation is not the correct way to deal with problem.

Next steps

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