Should workers be entitled to completely detach from work when they are not at the office? The French legislature seems to think so. A recent law passed by the Assemblée Nationale (AN) is encouraging French companies to negotiate formal policies with their employees, limiting work-related contact with employees to their regular working hours. This move has been described as an attempt to protect the supposed "right to disconnect". Whether this concept becomes recognized as a fundamental right of all French workers is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain; France is beginning to cut against the norm of constant accessibility that we have all been accustomed to. For instance, in most Western work environments, it is not abnormal to at least glance at a work e-mail received at five in the morning and respond to it on the way to work; theoretically disrupting the individual's opportunity to find the time to relax and be alone outside of the office. The AN contends that limiting this interaction to work-hours will significantly decrease health risks and increase worker morale.
However, this is not the law of the land in France, at least not yet. The measure must now pass the French Senate. If the Senators modify it, it will need to go back to the AN once more and may then need to go back again to the Senate.
Additionally, the proposed law is not as far- reaching as one might think. The law does not declare that weekend work emails are illegal. It simply says that employment agreements must consider what is and is not acceptable during weekends. If there is no such agreement, it can be fixed unilaterally by the employer to either allow or restrict weekend emails.