Around a million French tech workers will be barred from checking work e-mails after 6pm under a new agreement.
The change isn’t a law as such, but rather a deal between trade unions and employer federations. It’s an amendment to a 1999 deal imposing a maximum 35-hour work week and is binding on both sides.
The new rule has been added because workers felt being expected to respond to e-mails outside normal working hours was undermining the 35-hour policy and the principle that workers should be allowed an adequate break between each working day. One survey cited by The Australian found 39 percent of workers and 77 percent of managers currently access work e-mails outside of ordinary working hours.
The agreement covers both the tech and consulting industries, with the local equivalents of Facebook and Google included. Under the deal, both sides must change their behavior. Employees must switch off any work phones at 6pm and must not log in to any work accounts. Meanwhile bosses must not pressure employees to read or reply to messages outside of working hours.
The 6pm deadline won’t apply in every case; this is simply the way it will work with most office set-ups. The precise wording is that every worker must have at least 11 consecutive hours break between working days, and it’s during these 11 hours that they cannot access work e-mails. A worker who starts at 9am could thus still have to respond to e-mail until 10pm at night, though this would count as working time towards their weekly 35-hour limit.
The agreement also refers to the rule applying only to cadres. This is a French military term that has a looser definition in the workplace but generally applies to somebody in a senior position and/or with a degree of responsibility and self-autonomy in carrying out their work.
Exactly how the rules will operate may develop over time. The deal allows for access to messages in exceptional circumstances but says the cutoff must be the norm.
It follows Volkswagen in Germany deciding it would configure its servers so that messages to employees were only delivered between half an hour before, and half an hour after, ordinary working hours.