Councilman Raphael Espinal introduced a new bill in New York City to protect workers’ “right to disconnect.” The law would make it illegal for employers to ask employees to check work-related digital communications after business hours. This would apply to regular time off, sick days, and vacation time, and covers all businesses with at least 10 workers.
“There’s a lot of New Yorkers out there that don’t know when their work day begins or when their work day ends, because we’re all so tied to our phones,” said Councilman Espinal.
Employees feeling exploited outside of work would be able to file a complaint through 311. If the employer is found in violation of the law, the business must pay $500 to the abused employee and pay an additional $250 fine to the city.
Receiving emails after hours is more than just annoying – studies have found it can be emotionally damaging. “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,” said Conroy, assistant professor of Management at CSU’s College of Business.
Just last year, France passed a similar law letting workers ignore emails outside of working hours. Some European companies are going to further extremes in an attempt to reduce work-related stress. For example, German car manufacturer Daimler gives workers the option to automatically delete all of the emails they receive while they’re on vacation. Another German company, Volkswagen, “respects relaxation time” by blocking after-hours email and releasing them to inboxes on the next workday.
“All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant,” Socialist MP Benoit Hamon told the BBC. “Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash – like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails – they colonise the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”
Given the trend, this new proposed bill in New York City might not be as crazy as it sounds. Espinal hopes the “right to disconnect” will be given legislative protection before the end of 2018.