By Lyndsey Hall
France has recently passed a law protecting its workforce from the modern day expectation of being contactable 24/7 by banning business emails outside of working hours. According to the new rules, working hours are accepted to be between 9am and 6pm, and any work required outside of these times will only be permitted in “exceptional circumstances”.
According to The Guardian, one million employees in the digital and consultancy sectors, including the French branches of Google, Facebook, Deloitte and PwC, have been affected by the ruling; which involves a signed agreement between employers federations and unions stating that staff must switch off work phones and avoid checking work emails, and that employers cannot pressure staff into being contactable outside of these times.
Since 1998, France has had a 35-hour working week, compared the UK’s 48-hour week. However, France is not the only country concerned about the pressure put on the modern workforce by devices such as smartphones and tablets: Germany made a similar ruling after major companies like Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom were the first to instigate a ban on extending work hours. Volkswagen announced in December 2011 that their email servers would shut down 30 minutes after the last employee finished their shift, and not start up again until half an hour before the first person started their shift the following morning. The German labour ministry banned managers from contacting their employees while on leave or out of hours, except in emergencies, in a bid to prevent staff suffering from stress as a result of being permanently on call.
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