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France just gave employees the right to ignore work emails outside office hours

A “right to disconnect” law has just taken effect in France, which prevents employees from being required to respond to work-related emails while off the clock.

The new law applies to French companies with more than 50 employees, and its proponents are hoping it will help workers achieve more of a balance between their professional and personal lives.

“Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work,” said Benoit Hamon, Socialist member of Parliament said to the BBC in May. “They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash, like a dog,”  “The texts, the messages, the emails: They colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”

Over a third of surveyed French workers reported that they answered business emails during their personal time (compared to 87% of Americans.) About 60% of French workers expressed support for the new regulations, although its opponents are concerned that it may result in France becoming less competitive in global markets.

“In France, we are champions at passing laws, but they are not always very helpful when what we need is greater flexibility in the workplace,” said Olivier Mathiot, chief executive of online marketplace PriceMinister, which his based in Paris.

While the new law sets a precedent for how French businesses should act, as of now it does not specify penalties for businesses who disobey it.

The new law was passed as a part of a larger set of new labor laws aimed at combatting France’s difficult economic climate, which currently is struggling with an unusually high 10% unemployment rate.

Nathan Wellman is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and playwright. Follow him on Twitter: @LightningWOW

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