As a new law in France has been passed giving workers the legal right to ‘disconnect’ from workplace emails, we look at what this could mean if a similar law was rolled out in the UK.

At a time when workers tend to have more projects on the go than ever, there is an increasing demand on employees to be available should anything be needed. Certain professions will require this. For example an on-call mechanic will be expected to keep their phone on if working from home or over unsocial hours, such as Christmas. Whereas an administrator might not have urgent projects to complete, yet could be contacted by a colleague with time constraints.

The French government has implemented this law in response to rising stress levels which has been attributed to an inability to ‘switch off’ after work. For a typical office worker to go through a day communicating with colleagues, it can be difficult to switch off, particularly if a manager is ever-present through email.

Gina McCadden, Employment paralegal said: “When the ‘right to disconnect’ law was first mentioned in France, it was lauded internationally, but it has since been recognised as an innovative way to improve work-life balance for employees, resulting in more sleep, less stress and higher productivity when in the workplace. It can also reduce the chances of an employee feeling harassed by a demanding manager that doesn’t recognise boundaries.”

She continues: “If an employee is feeling under pressure at work, and goes home to receive further emails and demands, it will have a detrimental effect on wellbeing, sleep and overall attitude to work. A happy employee is a productive one, so by setting boundaries regarding out of hours contact in a staff handbook or a specific policy, all employees will know what is and isn’t acceptable contact. As such, they will feel better for knowing that they won’t be contacted on a weekend away, for example.”