It is now the norm to see passersby glued to their phones as they make their morning trek into work. And when those employees head home, they are often unable to “leave work at the office” as they continue to respond to evening messages, texts, and emails. Recent studies have shown that employees who spend time communicating about work matters and engaged in other work activities outside of working hours are less productive in the office and have a worse quality of sleep. Now, a novel bill introduced before the New York City Council seeks to end that practice by giving workers the ability to pull the plug on work communications during non-work hours.
Today, mobile technology allows many exempt employees to work remotely and perform work outside traditional working hours. Some commentators assert that the smartphone has stretched the traditional 9-to-5 workday into a 24/7 on-call period, where employees are expected to respond to work-related communications long after they leave the office and late into the night. The expectation that employees will be available to respond on evenings and weekends, however, has sparked pushback, causing some employees to call for more work-life separation and the ability to “unplug.” In France, this push to unplug recently resulted in a new law that gives employees a “right to disconnect.” Under that law, many French employers soon will be required to implement rules governing work-life balance and reasonable use of digital tools.
The French government has presented before Parliament the “El Khomri” bill which, if passed, should modify a significant part of the employment law framework in France.
Among various provisions, the bill mentions the right, for the employees, to disconnect.
Indeed article 25 of the bill states that the employer has to regulate the employees’ use of digital tools in order to protect their private and family life as well as resting periods.
More specifically, it is provided that the terms and conditions related to the right to disconnect are part of the topics which must be discussed on an annual basis between the employer and the employees’ representatives, during the mandatory negotiations related to the quality of work life. The purpose of it is to ensure the respect of rest time provisions and minimum leave.
This does not entail an absolute obligation to stop all email exchanges during weekends or out of working hours. Instead, it should help employers defining new rules within the company in order to achieve a good work/private life balance.