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Workers in France can now do away with the guilt of not checking emails outside work hours, with a new law coming into effect from New Year's Day.

On 1 January, an employment law will enter into force that obliges organisations with more than 50 workers to start negotiations to define the rights of employees to ignore their smartphones.

The law follows a 2015 report commissioned by labour minister Myriam El Khomri that warned of the dangers of letting work responsibilities seep into employees personal lives.

"There's a real expectation that companies will seize on the "right to disconnect" as a protective measure", said Xavier Zunigo, a French workplace expert, as a new survey on the subject was published in October.

The measure is meant to tackle the so-called "always-on" work culture that sees millions of employees effectively take their work home with them, leading to burnout and more serious mental health issues.

If a deal can not be reached, then companies must publish a charter making clear what is expected from staff and the rights they have.

"At the same time, workers don't want to lose the autonomy and flexibility that digital devices give them".

France has a working week of 35 hours, in place since 2000.

The new law is one of a set of labour laws to be introduced in May, though others were not as well received. "What we find is that people who feel they have to respond to emails on their off hours become emotionally exhausted, partially because they can't detach from work", the New York Daily News quotes a professor involved with a United States study that found checking work emails at home kept people from recharging at the end of the day. However, the rights of employees must be negotiated between workers with their individual firms.


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