The new employment law requires French companies with more than 50 employees to begin drawing up policies with their workers about limiting work-related technology usage outside the office, the newspaper reported.
The motivation behind the legislation is to stem work-related stress that increasingly leaks into people's personal time — and hopefully prevent employee burnout, French officials said.
“Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash, like a dog,” Benoit Hamon, Socialist member of Parliament and former French education minister, told the BBC in May. “The texts, the messages, the emails: They colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”
The “right to disconnect” provision was packaged with new and controversial reforms introduced last year that were designed to relax some of the country's strict labor regulations. The amendment regarding ignoring work emails was included by French Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri, who reportedly was inspired by similar policies at Orange, a French telecommunications company.
“There are risks that need to be anticipated, and one of the biggest risks is the balance of a private life and professional life behind this permanent connectivity,” Orange Director General Bruno Mettling told Europe1 radio in February. “Professionals who find the right balance between private and work life perform far better in their job than those who arrive shattered.”
The move received criticism from some who worried that French workers would get left behind by competitors in other countries where such restrictions did not exist. Still others objected to government interference.
“In France, we are champions at passing laws, but they are not always very helpful when what we need is greater flexibility in the workplace,” Olivier Mathiot, chief executive of PriceMinister, a Paris-based online marketplace, told BBC News in May.
Mathiot told the news site its company had implemented “no-email Fridays” and felt the problem should have been handled through education, not legislation.
However, supporters of the bill said it would be an important move toward minimizing work-related stress among French employees.
“At home the workspace can be the kitchen or the bathroom or the bedroom,” Linh Le, a partner at Elia management consultants in Paris, told BBC News. “You're at home but you're not at home, and that poses a real threat to relationships.”
French companies are expected to comply with the law on a voluntary basis, and there are no penalties yet for violating it, BBC reported.
In the spring, news of France's “right to disconnect” legislation prompted some discussion about whether anything like it could be viable in the United States.
“That [law] would never work here,” host Matt Lauer told his colleagues, as they all sweated and pedaled through the entirety of their live television broadcast.