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France: Right to Disconnect Takes Effect

(Jan. 13, 2017) The “right to disconnect” came into effect in France on January 1, 2017. (Clémentine Maligorne, Travail: vous avez désormais le droit de vous déconnecter [Work : You Have the Right to Disconnect], LE FIGARO (Jan. 4, 2017).) This refers to the right of employees to not have to take calls or read emails related to work during their time off. This right was created as part of a broader labor reform law adopted in August 2016.  (Loi n° 2016-1088 du 8 août 2016 relative au travail, à la modernisation du dialogue social et à la sécurisation des parcours professionnels (1) [Law No. 2016-1088 of 8 August 2016 Regarding Labor, Modernizing Labor Relations, and Securing Career Tracks (1)], art. 55, LEGIFRANCE; Nicolas Boring, France : Controversial Labor Law Reform Adopted, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Oct. 14, 2016).)

The labor reform law amended the Code du travail (Labor Code) to require companies with 50 employees or more to negotiate with employee representatives in order to determine the conditions of use of electronic communication tools. (Code du Travail [Labor Code] (consolidated version as of Jan. 1, 2017), arts. L2242-8 & L2242-9, LEGIFRANCE.) The goal of such agreements must be to ensure that the employees’ non-work hours, vacation time, and personal and family life be respected.  (Id. art. L2242-8.)  If no agreement is reached, the employer must still, after consulting employee representatives, establish a “charter” to define and establish the right to disconnect in that company.  (Id.)  An employer who fails to comply with these requirements may be subject to a fine of up to 1% of the employees’ total remuneration.  (Id. art. L2242-9.)

The French Parliament adopted the reform legislation on the basis of recommendations made in a report submitted to the French Minister of Labor in 2015.  (Droit à la déconnexion – Le droit à la déconnexion fait son entrée dans le code du travail [Right to Disconnect – The Right to Disconnect Enters into the Labor Code] (updated Oct. 24, 2016), Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi, de la Formation Professionnelle et du Dialogue Social [Ministry of Labor, Employment, Professional Training, and Social Dialogue] website.) This report suggested a right to disconnect as a way to reduce stress and ease the tension between a worker’s personal and professional life. (Bruno Mettling et al., Transformation numérique et vie au travail [Professional Life and Information Technology Transformation] La Documentation Française website (Sept. 2015).)

Recognizing that today’s economy requires flexibility and that a “one size fits all” solution would not be possible, the report also highlighted the importance of negotiated rules and protocols at the level of each individual company. (Id.)  Negotiations between the employer and employee representatives are a central part of the new law, in order to find a balance between the employees’ need to disconnect and the employing companies’ competitive needs, in accordance with each company’s specific situation and requirements, the report stated.  (Id.)