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Oh là là — French disconnect from 35 hour work week

    January 9, 2017

    France, known for its 35 hour work week, now provides its workers with a right to disconnect.  As of January 1st, companies in France must not encroach on a worker’s personal and family time with emails or calls.  The new law stipulates that companies with more than 50 workers must negotiate with employees and unions and agree on a policy to reduce the intrusion of work into private lives.

    The French premise the new law on a 2015 study that warned of the health impact of “info-obesity,” where employees are too plugged into work at all hours of the day.  The study found that more and more French people could not get away from work, even when they were not at the office.  According to the study, this could lead to burnout and other health-related issues.

    Despite the law, some doubt that the cultural shift to smart phones and constant access can be fully addressed.  Others believe that the new digital culture is a benefit to employees, as it offers employees more freedom and flexibility.

    As for French employers, some (like Volkswagen, Daimler, and French insurer Axa) have already taken steps to restrict out-of-hours messaging.  Volkswagen already limits email server connections to its employees on evenings and weekends.

    Currently, there are no immediate signs that France’s new law could gain traction in the United States, but the law does provide a basis on which persons could seek to limit when an employer could require employees to work, even thoughts paid on a salaried basis and are classified as exempt employees. 

    Brian A. Walker helps businesses and individuals in employment, business, and real estate related litigation and transactions from the Wenatchee office of Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC. You can reach Brian at or at (509) 663-1954.