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Disconnecting Becomes Legal Right for Employees In France

France is leading the way in the “right to disconnect” for employees. As of January 2017, companies with 50 or more employees will be required to negotiate contracts with unions that provide the right for employees to disconnect, which restricts employers from requiring employees to access and respond to work-related emails and calls.

The new measure stems from claims by employees of stress, burn-out, poor health, and detrimental impacts on personal and family life, according to SHRM. These claims can place liabilities on French employers as a consequence of around-the-clock connectedness.

The requirements for employers will vary depending on the number of employees within the business:

  • Companies with at least 50 employees are required to negotiate with the unions an agreement (“compulsory annual negotiations”) providing for the modalities of the right for all employees “to disconnect” in addition to means to control use of the IT equipment. The objective is to comply with compulsory rest time and reduce the intrusion of work into private and family life.

Not all employees belong to a union, however. In these cases and for businesses with less than 50 employees, employers have a different set of requirements.

  • Companies with fewer than 50 employees are not legally required to negotiate a company agreement or implement a policy on the “right to disconnect” for all employees.

The law also states that it only provides protection to salaried employees who work a minimum of 218 days per year, and the employer must simply inform the employees of their right to disconnect in many cases. This encourages companies to place this disclaimer in the contract of new hires.

So what can we expect in the U.S.?

“Right to disconnect” legislation has failed to take off in the U.S., and we don’t expect to see similar legislation at any level of government for some time. That doesn’t mean some companies aren’t taking things into their own hands, however. In a competitive marketplace for for employees in sectors such as engineering, software development, and healthcare, “right to disconnect” clauses in contracts can be seen as a recruiting tactic and extra perk for employees.

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