Friday, 6 January 2017

'Right to Disconnect' Takes Effect in France

At the end of a long work day, you expect to be able to go home to family, sit down to a good meal and relax for the rest of the evening. You hope to be able to spend weekends doing what you enjoy rather than having to worry about what awaits at the office on Monday morning.  However, if you're like many of us in this modern working world, those times of complete disconnection from work are rare. In France, they have decided to do something about it by formally implementing the 'right to disconnect'.

A new law codifying the rights of workers to take back their time away from work officially came into effect on January 1st 2017. The law is just one part of a much larger reform package intended to make labour practices in France more favourable to workers looking for a better work-life balance.

Under the legislation, companies with 50 or more employees must make every effort to negotiate in good faith in order to establish policies governing “off time” policies that both sides can live with. Those policies are meant to outline the limits of workplace intrusion into the personal lives of workers. If a company and its staff are unable to successfully negotiate acceptable policies, the employer must then publish documents detailing their off-time policies and the associated rights of workers.

A Law with No Teeth?

The right to disconnect legislation has been hailed by labour unions and worker advocates as a big win for the average man in the street. But how effective will the law actually be? News sources say that there are no mechanisms in place for enforcement. Rather, the French government hopes the legislation will encourage companies to voluntarily make a good-faith effort to negotiate with the employees.

Some companies have already done just that, according to the publication Silicon. A January 3rd piece from Silicon contributor Matthew Broersma cites Daimler and Volkswagen-BMW as just two examples. The question is, how many other companies will follow a law that essentially has no teeth?

We expect big-name corporations to make a way to allow their workers to disconnect, if for no other reason than the fact that they cannot afford the bad press that would come from ignoring the legislation. But smaller companies without name recognition to worry about might not be so keen on the idea.

The ironic thing is that logic dictates workers already have a right to disconnect, based on the simple fundamentals of business. A business essentially purchases services from employees by way of salary. For them to extract services for which they DO NOT pay is not only bad business but it is a legalised form of theft.

It is unfortunate that France has had to enact their right to disconnect legislation – because that right already exists naturally. Hopefully, employers will get on board with the new law because it's the right thing to do, not because French legislators have told them to.

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