April 11, 2014 – Whoever said life isn’t fair may have been referring the new law in France that makes it illegal for employees to work after 6 p.m. You read that right: the French not only manage to achieve that illusive work/life balance with ease, but they also signed it into law to guarantee it.
These same world citizens already have it good with their mandated 35 hour work week, full lunch breaks during the day, and the generous amount of vacation time they receive. Not to mention the croissants and champagne.
The new law officially forbids employees from viewing any work-related materials after 6 p.m. on their computer, laptop, tablet, or Smartphone. Sounds like they are pretty serious about this. Surely there will be penalties incurred by companies who break this law, but will it also affect employees individually if they choose to work late? How will they monitor such activities? The honor system?
This law will force companies in other countries conducting business in France to change their practice, as well. The company I work for has offices in Paris, and our workday is already cut short due to the time difference. This law makes that window even smaller.
Not that I am against a country that mandates its citizens enjoy life a little more; in fact, I’m rather envious. It’s commonly stated that Europeans work to live and Americans live to work. In the U.S. it is often one’s career that defines them, where in Europe, they see the benefit of family and play time.
In the U.S., it was the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that gave us the five-day, 40 hour work week, a concept strongly suggested by Henry Ford. It was the automaker’s way of looking out for and retaining good employees during the industrial era, when factories had to work round the clock.
If we’re keeping score, it looks like France pulled into the lead. Chalk one up for a country that shares a mix of capitalism and socialism.