France Makes It 'Illegal' To Check Your Work Emails At The Weekend

A new labour law has taken a stand on the digital addiction of our Gallic neighbours

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A controversial new labour act has enshrined into French law a stern disapproval of one of the great scourges of the digital age: people checking work emails at the weekend.

The act – commonly known at the 'El Khomri law' after the French Minister of Labour – is an attempt to modernise the country's labour laws and improve its unemployment rate which has been described as flagging President François Hollande's 'last throw of the dice' as he attempts to avoid going down as one of the most reviled leaders in the country's history.

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But while the cornerstone of the complicated bill – reforming the 35-hour working week to allow companies to wriggle out of paying overtime – saw almost 30,000 people march in futile protest across Paris in March, a small detail buried in the 3,500 pages of 'El Khomri law' could well prove more popular.

Article 25 was spotted outside France by the New Yorker, which reported:

"The development of information and communication technologies, if badly managed or regulated, can have an impact on the health of workers," Article 25 states. "Among them, the burden of work and the informational overburden, the blurring of the borders between private life and professional life, are risks associated with the usage of digital technology." The law suggests that companies — following the lead of Volkswagen, which turns off its servers after-hours, and Daimler, which allows employees to automatically delete emails they receive while on vacation — negotiate formal policies to limit the encroachment of work into people's homes (or bingo halls, or salsa clubs, or wherever it is they find themselves when they're away from the office).

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The idea will resonate with many in Britain – particularly those in white collar professions - who are all too familiar with the martyred Saturday morning / Sunday night scroll through the work inbox, ostensibly with an eye on making Monday a little easier.

Like getting no sleep or leaving the office late, the act has been adopted as a badge of honour by the ambitious to denote devotion to their careers, even though countless studies into productivity confirm that switching off completely at appropriate times makes us perform better at work when we're there.

In May last year, former government adviser on mental health in the work place Sir Gary Cooper warned the BBC that "For people to be working at night, weekends and holiday on emails is not good for the health of our country."

In a speech at the British Psychological Society's annual conference he pointed out recent figures from the Office for National Statistics that indicated the UK has the second-lowest rate of productivity out of the leading G7 industrial nations - putting it behind the US, Germany, France, Italy and Canada.

Despite this there are no signs the British government is planning to follow France's lead by officially tutting and shaking its head at our out of office email addiction not - you suspect - that it would make much difference if they did.