French Law Forces Bosses to Respect Free Time

 

For many working Americans, leaving the office in the early evening doesn’t necessarily mean your workday is done. Answering emails and phone calls can stretch one’s workday far past the standard five o’clock threshold. That is, unless you happen to be a consultant working in France. Under a new agreement between labor unions and corporate representatives, more than 250,000 French employees at consulting, computing and polling firms are required to “disconnect” from work once they clock out.

Under the agreement, companies must grant workers 11 hours of uninterrupted “rest” time every day. This ensures that France’s 35-hour workweek law remains enforced in busy tech sectors. While some may see such legislation as a mark of laziness, it mainly ensures that French citizens receive overtime for work done past the 35-hour mark. The recent update is meant to cover tech employees who signed contracts with employers that only stipulated how many days they must work rather than daily hours.

Although this story caused a bit of a stir with some envious rat racers, such an agreement is not without precedent. In 2011 Volkswagen began shutting off its BlackBerry servers at the end of the workday, effectively freezing out employees from continuing to work. Last year, supervisors in the German Labor Ministry were ordered not to contact employees outside of office hours. Labor laws in France and Germany remain highly protective of workers rights, but critics feel that such requirements can harm economic growth. However, as one French consultant observed, “If you don’t have employees who are in good health, your competitiveness is going to fall.”

 

Questions:

  1. Should workers feel compelled to deal with emails or phone calls after work?
  1. Should U.S companies follow the lead of Volkswagen?

 

Source: Scott Sayare, “In France, A Move to Limit Off-the-Clock Work Emails,” The New York Times, April 11, 2014. Photo courtesy of马瑞.

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