French tech sector enacts law that prohibits work emails after 6pm (updated)

9 Apr 2014

For those in the tech sector dreading the 10pm work emails on Friday, feel a pang of jealousy for our French neighbours as a new law will prohibit such emails after 6pm.

The move comes after the union representing the French tech sector complained (article behind paywall) that its members were being bombarded with work emails during what was supposed to be their time off, and those emails kept them working throughout the evening.

The union represents 1m of France’s tech-sector employees and will now be asking its members to simply avoid responding or looking at any digital methods of communication sent to them after the 6pm deadline.

The question remains how some of the world’s largest tech companies with offices in Paris but headquarters in California, such as Google and Facebook, will react to the news. The time difference between France and California is nine hours, which means all email from California will have to occur no later than 9am Paris time.

French workers are reportedly rather pleased with this decision, with chairman of the General Confederation of Managers, Michel de la Force, saying a break from the screen was necessary.

“We must also measure digital working time. We can admit extra work in exceptional circumstances but we must always come back to what is normal, which is to unplug, to stop being permanently at work,” de la Force said.

Under French law, companies must maintain a strict maximum 35-hour working week. France became the first country in the world to implement such a rule in 1999, but the advent of widespread smartphone use is believed to be violating this rule.

Email ignored image via Shutterstock

Updated 16 April 2014:

Alas, it seems that it was too good to be true. A French Slate journalist has reported that the intial report on The Guardian was lost in translation as the banning of email past 6pm was only a rumour and was actually based on discussions that were on-going between unions and employers regarding particular workers’ ‘obligation to disconnect’ ie a certain amount of timed off, for contract workers that do not come under the umbrella of the maximum 35-hour working week.

Even, he time of 6pm was fabricated entirely by the initial report off guess-work by the writer believing French workers would be clocking-off at that time.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic