French law has recently implemented the “right to disconnect” from digital tools, requiring employers to limit employees’ use of digital tools outside of office hours.
The purpose of the new legislation is to protect the employees’ work-life balance and their right to rest periods.
New article L 2242-8 of the French Labour Code provides that the conditions relating to the right to disconnect must be discussed on an annual basis, as from 1st January 2017, in the course of the mandatory negotiations on equality between men and women and quality of working life. Such negotiations will take place between the employer and union representatives.
In the absence of an agreement with unions on the right to disconnect, the law provides that the employer will be required to prepare a charter, after having consulted the works council or the staff representatives. This charter should include provisions related to the implementation of training in order to learn how to use digital tools reasonably.
Although the law provides that its application should only concern companies with at least 50 employees, it appears that such obligation may also apply to companies with at least 10 employees. Therefore, it is recommended that employers begin planning how to apply the right to disconnect in their respective companies.
It is however important to emphasise that the right to disconnect will not completely prevent the employees from using their phone or computer after working hours or during week-ends and holidays. If an employee wishes to use digital tools during his rest period, he will be able to do so. However, the employer has to alert the employees to the existence of the right and implement measures which regulating such use.
The law does not provide a specific sanction for failure of the employer to comply with such obligations. However, if the employer does not comply with the right to disconnect, the employees may raise such breach as grounds upon which to base a claim that the employer has committed a violation of the safety obligation.