France didn’t ban employees from reading after-hours emails

Picture of a woman answering emails on holiday
By Alex Burden, Student Blog

4 August 2016

Did you spot a news story that France has banned workers from answering emails after-hours or on weekends, and enshrined the move in legislation? Except, that didn’t happen; the law doesn’t exist and there is no way that an employer would be arrested for sending an email on a Saturday!

The claims grew out of article 25 of a proposed labour bill, which mentions ‘the right of the employee to disconnect’ as part of several proposals to ensure ‘quality of life at the workplace’. Essentially, what this would-be bill says is that employees have a right to protected rest periods and ‘reasonable use of digital tools’.

If you work in a French company with less than 50 employees, however, these same rights are subject to adjustment. And this is nothing new. Daimler have set up a facility that auto-deletes any emails sent during the holidays, and Volkswagen prevents emails being released from their servers when shifts end.

The message is, that if you have work, then it is completed during paid hours. Of course, this doesn’t and shouldn’t prevent people from picking up the phone, as this is necessary to do in certain situations! But in an increasingly inter-connected world of 24-hour communication, what is prompting these moves to re-address the work/life balance?

'Flexible working, shorter working hours and fewer meetings’ would make working lives easier - Morgan McKinley survey

CA Today recently reported on UK professionals facing burnout, and noted that 84 per cent of those surveyed by recruiter Morgan McKinley worked extra hours (31 per cent working more than ten hours extra each week!)

The survey found that ‘flexible working, shorter working hours and fewer meetings’ would make working lives easier, which chimes with another report by the Chartered Management Institute, They discovered burnout is increasing amongst managers, spurred by ‘always-on’ technology such as email. Some individuals prefer to have the flexibility to answer emails when they can, but this can also feel like an intrusion on home life to others.

The production of policies that inspire company-wide culture change and protect rest periods are a good idea as it’s essential to keep people engaged with office communications; the moment you feel dread when staring at 100 unread emails is the moment you start to disengage.

The principle is similar to making meetings an effective use of time; we would never do any work if 90 per cent of our time was tied up in conference rooms as a non-essential attendee and leaving without a firm set of follow-up actions. Emails are just the same – do you need to CC in everyone? If you send it late at night, who are you expecting to read it? Managing expectations for employees and employers sets a clear precedent for effective working and reducing out-of-hours stress to boost in-office productivity.

What are your thoughts? Do you think email usage policies are a good idea? Can you see the benefits, or are there distinct disadvantages to them? You can also email us at


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