COULD “RIGHT TO DISCONNECT” LEGISLATION BE EFFECTIVE
IN PREVENTING BURNOUT?
By Zoltan Vadkerti
A British company was recently ordered by a French court to pay $90,000 for fail-ing
to respect the rights of one of its employees to disconnect from work. The
story made national headlines as the ruling was the first of its kind since the much
debated “Right to Disconnect” law became effective in France, on January 1, 2017.
INSPIRED BY FRANCE
As part of a massive labour-code revamp, the Trudeau government is currently assessing the
possibility of providing federally-regulated workers with the right to ignore work-related
texts and emails after work hours through a “right to disconnect” law; similar to what France
has in place. Although the new regulation would concern only federally-regulated workers
who represent six per cent of the entire workforce, it is a development that raises a few eye-brows
in the Canadian HR community.
The dispute over the curtailing of out-of-working-hours messaging is certainly not just a
French or Canadian phenomenon. Similar regulations have already been introduced in Italy
and the Philippines, and some are planned in Belgium and the Netherlands. Some of the
most prominent corporate groups, such as Volkswagen or Daimler, have also taken similar
initiatives to support their employees in disconnecting from technology while not at work.
Most recently, the “right to disconnect” discussion has started to receive national attention in
the U.S. as well, due to a bill put forward by the New York City Council.
While the digital aspect of the 21st-century workplace is openly debated, can top-down
regulations and financial penalties for non-compliance be the solution for problems that
might have its origin in a wider organizational context?
HRPROFESSIONALNOW.CA ❚ DECEMBER 2018 ❚ 25