No, France Did Not Make It Illegal To Answer Work Emails After 6 P.M.

Thank God.

If you were on Twitter or Facebook today you may have read that France banned work emails after 6 p.m.

Most of the posts quoted this article from The Guardian as a source.

But this article and the ones that followed are full of mistakes and misconceptions about France's labor laws and about this most recent "rule".

To begin with, France did not ban work emails after 6 p.m.

It is not a law. It was not voted by the French parliament, nor ruled on by a French court. It is, however, an agreement between a federation of employers -- from engineering and consulting companies -- and two unions of workers (CFDT and CGC). It was designed to protect the workers' health and well-being.

The deal does not "affect a million employees."

According to the Guardian, the agreement "affects a million employees in the technology and consultancy sectors (including the French arms of Google, Facebook, Deloitte and PwC)."

If it is true that the federation of employers represents almost a million employees, only a fraction of them are affected by the new rule. They are the employees working outside of the 35 hours per week frame and mostly occupying management positions.

Far from the million announced by The Guardian, only 250,000 employees should be affected by the new rule.

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.

While we poor, pallid, cowering Brits scurry about, increasingly cowed by the threat of recession-based redundancy and government measures that privilege bosses' and shareholder comfort over workers' rights, the continentals are clocking off. While we're staring down the barrel of another late one/extra shift/all-nighter, across the Channel they're sipping sancerre and contemplating at least the second half of a cinq à sept before going home to enjoy the rest of that lovely "work/133-hours-per-week-of-life" balance.

With an unemployment rate nearing the 10%, French workers are far from living the ideal life painted by The Guardian.

The only thing this new agreement means is that quarter of a million of them will have to step away from their work email for at least 11 hours a day.

For the French speakers, here is the text from the agreement.

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