France Didn't Actually Ban Work Email After 6 PM -- But What Did Happen Is Still Really Funny

Yesterday, the Guardian’s Lucy Mangan reported an agreement had been signed by unions and employers in France that will require “a million” employees to switch off their work phones “after 6 p.m.”

Now the entire French media sphere is going in on correcting the report.

“The legend of the ban on work emails after 6 p.m.” LeMonde’s screamed.

“France did not ban workers from sending emails after 6 p.m.” said.

“Oh my God, those Frenchies banned work emails after 6 p.m.” Rue89 a ironisé.

While the story was wrong, as you’ll see, this doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to laugh at what actually happened.

France’s administrative court recently ruled that tech workers’ right to health and rest was not sufficiently protected by existing laws.

Yes, a judge actually said that.

Because of new French labour laws signed under President Nicolas Sarkozy, these employees can now legally work up to 13 hours a day.

Anyway, in response to the court’s ruling French unions and the country’s tech business association signed an agreement recognising a “right of disconnecting.” No more than 250,000 workers are impacted, and nothing was mentioned about stopping at 6 p.m. — rather, it covered any time a tech worker clocks out.

“The employer will take adequate measures such that the employee has the possibility of disconnecting his work communication tools,” the agreement reads.

As’s Greg Fleurot explained, this means a worker can choose to not check his work email during his legally mandated rest period (yes that exists) and not face retribution.

One of the union heads, Michel de la Force, was quoted as saying employers can proactively adhere to the agreement by shutting off access to work emails after 6 p.m. — as certain companies like France’s Volkswagen research unit already do. The employer can also force workers to leave their work phones and computers at work.

So: Does France have crazy work laws? Absolutely. But the country won’t be flipping its work email switch off every day at sundown.

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