France gives workers the right to avoid emails after work

Erroneous reports stated that the country was outright banning work emails after 6 p.m. That’s not the case. Even so, even the thought of professionals detaching from their phones sounds like a nightmare for a lot of people who work in public relations.

If you’re like many PR pros I know, you’re often encouraged by friends and family to “unplug” from work. Put away the phone, ignore your email and enjoy, well, I don’t know. Whatever there is to enjoy outside of your phone.

But what if you had the law on your side, which stipulated that you had the legal right not to send work emails after 6 p.m.? Some of you would rejoice, I’m sure, while others would treat it like voting and simply choose not to exercise said right.

In France, this scenario is becoming a reality for more than 200,000 union workers.

A newly reached labor agreement will essentially make it illegal for companies to require their unionized work force to check email after 6 p.m. (Some misleading reports claimed that workers would be banned from sending emails after 6. That’s not true.)

The French version of Slate clears up some of the misconceptions that the rest of us non-French natives got wrong. If Google Translate is to be trusted, the non-French press was wrong on four points of the story.

1. It’s around 200,000 workers that are affected by this—not 1 million.

2. Union members are not limited to 35-hour weeks or 10-hour days, as was inaccurately reported. According to this site, the stipulation is for 218 days per year.

3. It’s not illegal to check your email after 6 p.m. It’s actually a “duty to disconnect” for managers in engineering, IT and consultancy fields to encourage adequate rest periods.

4. The French don’t view this as a win for the unions—many think it doesn’t go far enough to protect the health of its workforce.

So, as fascinating as it would be to have police show up at your doorstep because you checked a work email at 7 p.m., it’s just not the case. If you were about to hop a flight to Paris to protest laws that would require you to put your smartphone away in the evening, you can lay down your sword.

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