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'France does not switch off at 6pm'

French media react to British newspaper reports about a “new law” making it illegal to answer work emails after 6pm

CONTRARY to popular belief in Britain, the French do work and they do read work-related emails after 6pm.

That’s the shocking news the French media would like to tell their counterparts in the UK after Lucy Mangan’s blog post When the French clock off at 6pm, they really mean it in The Guardian last week sparked another round of “French-bashing” in the British press.

Ms Mangan’s post cited an article in Les Echos, about a deal - which affects about 250,000 employees in the technology and consultancy sectors - allowing staff to “disconnect” from work calls and emails to ensure they have the appropriate rest time allowed under French employment law.

Other British newspapers picked up on the story. The Daily Mail claimed this “new legal agreement” proved that France was “arguably the laziest country in Europe”.

In the London Evening Standard, Lucy Tobin was more positive in her blog Paris shows us how to escape our smartphones, but even she claimed that it was “illegal” to answer work emails after 6pm.

The agreement in question is not new, the French media pointed out. It is an amendment to a previous agreement limiting normal working hours to 35 per week, taking into account the rise of digital and remote working.

The amendment merely recognises a “need to disconnect communications tools” to allow workers time to rest.

The chairman of the General Confederation of Managers, Michel de la Force, said: “We must measure digital working time

“We must always come back to what is normal, which is to unplug, to stop being permanently at work.”

He added the agreement means that: “An employee who does not open his emails on his time off cannot be criticised.”

There is no mention in the agreement of a 6pm shutdown - only that employees are entitled to at least 11 hours a day away from their work.

A 2013 study by the Research Center for the Study and Observation of Living Conditions (Crédoc) shows that two out of five people use information technology and communication for work purposes outside their normal working hours.

Photo: Michael Coghlan

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