The French government made headlines recently as it prepares to push through a law which gives employees the ‘right to disconnect’. This means that, by law, an employer cannot expect its employees to check or answer emails outside of work hours or even answer calls from them.
You will have seen more and more stories in the media about promoting a good work-life balance, but the fact is, us human beings are not very good at taking time out.
Aaron Hayward, an employment specialist within the corporate and commercial team at DJM Solicitors, one of the largest law firms in Wales, with extensive experience in both contentious and non-contentious employment work explains.
It has been argued this law will make employees take time off work, removing the decision and the guilt from them and making it illegal for employers to penalise their staff for not answering emails outside of work hours.
France is famous for promoting a good work-life balance. It has a strict 35-hour working week and bans any work between the hours of 9pm and 6am unless the work plays an important role in the economy or is socially useful.
We are living in a world that is always online, meaning crises could take place at any time of the day and night and, in many industries, senior account staff need to be able to respond to clients in a timely fashion.
I would question whether employees who do respond to these emails will get their employer in trouble or, as there is a good reason why they had to email outside of working hours, they will be forgiven.
What if an employee wants to answer emails outside of work? They may be ambitious and want to complete work quicker than expected to prove themselves. Would they be allowed to or will they have to accept that they can’t?
The intricacies of the new law are still being hammered out, and I expect there will be further amends once it comes into play as flaws are identified.
Could it come to the UK?
While you are not legally obliged to give employees flexible hours, as a good employer you should always encourage your staff to switch off after working hours. Aside from the HR issues that could arise from making your employees work unreasonable hours, you will also have an overworked and potentially less productive staff base, which could be detrimental to your business.
It is worth thinking about what policies or laws could be introduced in the next few years and whether your business is ready for them. Sweden has recently introduced a six-hour working day, to minimise staff time spent in work and promote a better quality of life, and all trends in HR point to encouraging employees to prioritise their own wellbeing over their workload.