Entrepreneurs share their view on France's 'right to disconnect' law

This week saw the introduction of France’s nationwide law that gives workers the right to unplug from their jobs once they leave the office. Known as the ‘right to disconnect’, the law has provoked much discussion. But how do entrepreneurs think that it would affect their businesses if a similar law was introduced in other locations?

French ministers voted to require all companies with more than 50 employees to negotiate a system to make sure that work emails do not infringe on days off, evenings and weekends. “The boundary between professional and personal life has become tenuous,” the country’s labour minister Myriam El Khomri said.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone would be on board if more locations adopted similar laws. “This should be a matter of personal choice and not ‘compulsory’,” David Dews, director at Speed Agency says. “I don’t think it should be a law or a company policy, either way it should be up to the individual.

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“Although there is the argument that employees are not being paid fairly for their overtime, and that they don’t stop working when they get back from home, this could be impractical. For example, for those who have greater responsibilities in managerial and director’s roles, an employee could be waiting for an important decision or feedback regarding a project while they are on holiday - if they can’t access their emails or respond, then deadlines will be missed. Additionally, if a company has a client overseas, then the time zone will be different and both are unable to reply, which could cause a firm to be less competitive. That being said, a worker’s out of hours should be respected which is why it should be a personal decision and not a law in every country.”

Particularly, Dews notes that it could have a negative impact on his business. “Clients may be left unsatisfied if they have an urgent issue that needs resolving, or if an artwork needs to be sent to the printers the next day.”

“But,” he adds, “this is up to the person who is managing the project to judge. I don’t think it should be compulsory. It’s a choice. Some thrive on being available out of hours while other don’t – it needs to be a personal decision.”  

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However, Gary Lyons, founder of the Plastic Box Shop, says that he can see the benefit. “On leaving university to start my first job it seemed like a competition each night on who could send the last email to their line manager,” he says. “This was tiring, and it did not always give me the chance to completely relax on a night.”

Although, he admits that now he’s running his own business he does tend to work later in the evenings. But he adds: “I have never expected my staff to be sat answering emails every night unless we were under severe time pressures.  I would rather have staff who were fresher throughout the day and not jaded from sat looking at a computer screen all night.”

Ultimately, Lyons says, it’s all down to culture. “If someone in France goes to work for a company that has a culture of everyone sat on their laptop or PC's every night this law will not make any difference,” he says. “However, it might stop new companies from adopting this mentality in France, which will be interesting to see.”

For more on workplace wellbeing, check out our In Focus theme.

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