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France bans work emails after 6pm

French citizens will no longer have to answer work emails outside of working hours after a legally binding work agreement was signed to that effect.

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The Times reported the deal, signed by employers’ federations and unions representing nearly a million workers in the digital and consultancy sectors, states that employees must be left alone once out of the office and outside of the 35-hour working week.

Businesses will be forced to make sure that employees aren’t under duress to check messages and staff will be told to turn off professional phones and to not check emails or work documents on tablets or computers.

It came after a study released in France had revealed that 39 per cent of workers and 77 per cent of management used smartphones, tablets and computers for work in the evenings, at weekends and during holidays.

“We must also measure digital working time. We can admit extra work in exceptional circumstances but we must always come back to what is normal, which is to unplug, to stop being permanently at work,” added Michel De La Force, chairman of the General Confederation of Managers.

France’s ruling covers all companies in the technology and consultancy sectors meaning that the likes of Facebook and Google, which both have French arms, will be affected by the news.

The country originally brought in the 35-hour working week in 1999 with the plan that it would reduce unemployment by forcing companies to create more jobs to fill in the extra hours, though it has failed to work with the company’s jobless rate still at 10.2 per cent.

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Elsewhere in the country, international groups are looking to see off union demands by signing a “life-time balance” charter drawn up by the French government. This includes 15 commitments that range from avoiding meetings to limiting emails outside of the 0900 to 1800 working day.