French workers can ignore after-hours email, new law says

Dive Brief:

  • French workers can legally ignore emails when they’re off the clock, reports Fortune. France passed a new law requiring employers with at least 50 or more workers to set non-office hours in which workers can’t send or respond to emails. The law became effective Jan. 1.
  • French lawmakers said the legislation ensures that workers are paid fairly and that their personal, off-hour time is protected from email intrusion, says Fortune. The law also was meant to reduce the occurrence of burnout among workers due to excessive emails.
  • However, not all French workers found the law appropriate. Some protested it on the basis that employers could more easily fire workers for not working.

Dive Insight:

The email law is part of a broader package of new labor policies that was the subject of protest in recent weeks. But there's a question on the minds of many French employees: Do these laws protect employees from burnout, or does it make them easier scapegoats for firing?  

U.S. employers used to monitor personal email use, but have since cut back on email surveillance, studies show. For many people – both on and off the job – email is like an addiction; it must be checked and responded to several times a day. For others, email is disruptive and counter-productive.

Despite how workers feel overall about the new law, French lawmakers might be on to something. Fortune points to studies initially reported by National Public Radio. In one study, Stanford University business professors concluded that workplace email is a significant source of stress. Employers pay between $125 and $190 billion in U.S. healthcare costs for stress-related illnesses. Of that amount, overwork accounts for $48 billion.

Filed Under: Legal
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