Weekend Work Emails Illegal

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By: Amelya Stevenson, M.A., SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP

Every time we turn around we have a new HR law or wage and hour change to contend with in the workplace.  The disruption of the changes can create havoc with our business routine in how we are treating employees, their anxieties rise due to the changes and we just have to learn a new policy or procedure again and ensure we are handling it correctly for our employees and our employers.  Well, what if we also had to deal with a new law, one that would impact us tremendously at home, our work life balance – or would it?

As of May 25th 2016 France has enacted a new law called, “The right to disconnect”.  What this essentially means is if you work for a company with 50 or more employees (in France) you would not be able to access your work emails after hours or on the weekends.  Is this law infringing on the freedoms we deserve in our country by allowing government to dictate when we can log onto our work emails and when we can’t.  Or should we thank France for starting a trend that may be so needed in our Country?  Apparently France is recognizing that their workers are negatively impacted by excessively plugged in all the time, day or night.  “All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant,” Benoit Hamon of the French National Assembly told the BBC earlier this month.  “Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work.  They remain attached by a king of electronic leash-like a dog.  The texts the messages, the email – they colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”

Under the new law, companies are mandated to negotiate formal policies to limit the spillover of work, specifically as it’s related to “digital technology,” into the private lives of employees.  This, according to the BBC, will involve companies establishing “charters of good conduct” specifying hours, typically in the evening and weekends, when employees aren’t supposed to send or receive emails.

How would you feel if our US government enacted a new law that prevented you from logging into your work emails until Monday?  Would that put more stress on you Monday morning?  Would love to hear your reaction.


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