A new labor agreement in France prohibits employees in the country from checking work-related e-mails when they are already out of their office or at home, and employers cannot pressure them to check or respond to their e-mails.

France

The new regulation is designed to ensure that its current 35-hour work week will not extend to 40 hours because employees are compelled to check their work-related e-mails on their personal computers at home or on mobile devices.

The labor agreement does not cover all workers in France because it was only signed by labor unions including Syntec, CFDT and CGC that represent one million employees, but it will only affect 250,000 employees, particularly those working in the technology and consultancy companies such as the French subsidiaries of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

France’s move ensures minimum rest period

The leaders of the labor unions who signed the accords reaffirms the “duty to disconnect communication tools at a distance” designed to make sure that minimum rest periods mandated by French and European regulations on workload and minimum rest time. Yvan Bearaud of Federation F3 CFDT said that agreement “brings new rights” to workers.

The USA Today quoted a comment from Fox Business that it is hard to believe that the IT industry will be able to manage such draconian shut-off time. The comment reads, “There’s always something going wrong off the clock — when a computer goes down, it doesn’t go down between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.”

A similar opinion was expressed on Fast Company that such legally binding agreement may be tough to enforce, but “it’s a nice perk to have in any case.”

Germany has similar regulation

Germany has a similar regulation. Last year, the German Labor Ministry implemented guidelines prohibiting managers from calling or sending e-mails to their employees who are already out of work except in emergencies to ensure that their rest hours remain undisturbed.

Under the guidelines, staff should not be penalized if they did turn off their mobile devices or did not respond to messages after work hours. Some companies in Germany implemented out-of-hours e-mail restrictions including Volkswagen AG (FRA:VOW) (ETR:VOW) (ETR:VOW3) and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (FRA:BMW).

At the time of the implementation of the guidelines, German Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen explained that the rules were designed to protect the mental health of workers. According to her, it is important for remote workers to know “When they have to be available, and when they don’t. They now have this clarity in black and white.”