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Feeling disconnected from work? That is a good thing, in France!


What is the news?

Rentokil Initial has been ordered to pay one of its former France-based employees €60,000 because it failed to respect his ‘right to disconnect’ from his phone and computer outside office hours.

What does the news mean?

On 1 January 2017, the ‘right to disconnect’ came into force in France. Its aim was to address the ‘always-on’ work culture (which resulted in unpaid overtime) and means employees now have the legal right to avoid telephone calls and work emails outside working hours.

In this case, the French Supreme Court held it was unfair for the employee to have to ‘permanently leave his telephone on … to respond to requests from his subordinates or customers’ in case of any problems while not at work.

What do we think of the news?

The ruling is an interesting one because it serves as a useful reminder to our technology-crazed culture that employers need to take the health and wellbeing of their workers seriously. While France has taken active steps to legislate in this area and the UK hasn’t, UK employers still have obligations to ensure their workers have adequate periods of rest and that sufficient steps are taken to support them in the workplace. The results of a recent Ofcom study reinforce this further, it found that the average Briton now checks their mobile phone every 12 minutes and is online for 24 hours a week. With a rise in addiction and reliance on technology, it is interesting that France intervened to address the overuse of digital devices and reduce the interruption of work into their private lives. While it is highly unlikely that the UK will adopt the same approach, our UK employers can still take steps to provide a happier working culture where individuals can still disconnect, subject of course to the nature of the work. These include, for example:

  • Encouraging a culture where, as much as possible, responses to emails etc are not expected after working hours;
  • Ensuring that if on call working is required, proper breaks and rest are also provided;
  • Being clear and transparent about expected hours of work; and
  • Being flexible with working practices.

If you would like to talk through any issues arising out of this HRtCn, you can contact Associate, Siobhan Howard-Palmer on T: 0161 358 0537 or E: siobhanhoward-palmer@hrclaw.co.uk.

This contains a general overview of information only. It does not constitute, and should not be relied upon, as legal advice. You should consult a suitably qualified lawyer on any specific legal problem or matter.