Here’s what really happened.
Last week, two groups of employers signed an agreement with French unions outlining certain workers’ “obligation to disconnect.” The agreement followed several months of negotiation and serves as an update to one from 1999 that established the 35-hour workweek, among other things.
This “obligation to disconnect,” a vague-sounding phrase if we’ve ever heard one, would apply not to the 1 million people the companies involved represent, but to the roughly 25 percent of independent workers they employ. Unlike typical workers, these “forfait jour” contractors have flexible hours and are not governed by the 35-hour workweek or 10-hour-day limit. So, unlike other workers, they can end up putting in extremely long days. They are not, as the Guardian piece angrily suggests, “sipping sancerre and contemplating at least the second half of a cinq à sept” before clocking out.
Marie Telling notes that “French employees can still send professional emails after 6 p.m.”:
The text never specifies any precise time after which the employees are not to exchange work emails.
The Guardian may have based its assumption on the fact that many French workers working the traditional 35 hours a week get off work at 6 p.m. The only problem is that the employees affected by the deal work outside this time frame. They work longer hours and that’s precisely why this rule was made for them (they can work up to a maximum of 78 hours a week).
These employees won’t stop sending work emails after 6 p.m.