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Reader question: Is it illegal for my boss to contact me out-of-hours in France?

Reader question: Is it illegal for my boss to contact me out-of-hours in France?
Video conferences and remote working have become the norm for many in France this year. Photo: AFP
Télétravail has become the norm in France, but does that mean we have to be online at all times?

Question: Are there any rules regulating my rights to turn off my computer, phone and other work devices when I’m working from home in France?

This is a question many people have been asking after several reports by French media about employees feeling exhausted by the all-consuming nature of the new mode of télétravail (remote working) in France.

When Covid-19 turned life upside down in March 2020, remote working became the norm across Europe. In France, a country that long has emphasised présentéisme (presentism) as key to good office culture, the change came a bit reluctantly.

But President Emmanuel Macron’s government has asked repeatedly that everyone who can, works 100 percent from home in order to reduce social contacts and thereby the risk of getting infected with the virus. In January, they revised the guidelines to toughen up the rules as Covid-19 numbers rose.

In a recent note they also reminded businesses that remote workers are subject to the same rules as those coming into office, and that they too have a right to switch off after office hours.

France’s labour law provides for a droit à la déconnexion (the right to disconnect) outside office hours, a rule that entered into effect on January 1st 2017.

As new technology made it possible for workers to be online at all times, then-President François Hollande’s government decided to create formal guidelines to prevent employers from exploiting their employees.

The goal of the law was to improve quality of life by formally separating the work sphere from the private sphere and guaranteeing that when an employee leaves work, they no longer have to respond to work-related emails, calls or text messages.

This right to disconnect applies for remote workers as well, which means anyone feeling strung out by a demand to be reachable at all times should check the rules in their business for being online.

READ ALSO: Your rights and responsibilities as a remote-worker in France

The details of how a business applies the right to disconnect is a topic of internal negotiation, so not all businesses respect the same rules, but people doing long-term télétravail should have a conversation with their boss about what are considered their normal working hours and when it is therefore appropriate for the boss to call, message or email.

While there is no official sanction mechanism in place for businesses that do not maintain the right to disconnect, a manager can be sanctioned if they do not respect an employee’s work hours.

For full details, see the government’s note HERE.


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