France May Give Workers Right to Ignore Emails at Home

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PARIS, France (CNNMoney) — Don’t mess with the French work-life balance!

The French government is getting ready to propose a new rule next month that would give workers the “right to disconnect” from their emails and smartphones when they’re out of the office.

The draft bill, originally leaked by French newspaper Le Parisien, is part of a wide range of labor reforms designed to make France a more competitive, business-friendly country, while still protecting workers’ interests.

France’s economy has been stagnating for years and many multinational firms take a dim view of French business regulations.

The draft bill also includes reforms to France’s infamous 35-hour work week rule that would make it easier for companies to seek exemptions.

The 35-hour rule, which has been reformed many times, was originally put in place in 2000 as a way of encouraging companies to hire more people by limiting work hours.

French unions have long pushed for a “disconnect” rule, saying digital technologies have created an “explosion of undeclared labor” that is forcing employees to work well beyond 35 hours per week.

Jean-Luc Molins, who heads the UGITC-CGT union representing engineers and technical workers, said the proposal is overdue.

“The law is late in comparison with corporate realities,” he told CNNMoney.

If the proposal is approved, it would become law in July 2017.

Some French companies are already putting rules in place to bar employees from using their work devices after hours. Some firms even completely shut down their email systems overnight.

Frederic Lafage, director of engineering firm ORFEA Acoustique, told CNNMoney it was difficult to implement the “disconnect” system, but it hasn’t resulted in a loss of productivity. In fact, it’s the opposite, he said, claiming workers are more efficient in the office after getting some much needed rest at home.

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