France was the birthplace of the right to disconnect. In 2016, the Valls Government passed a labour law that, among other provisions, included the right to disconnect (le droit de la déconnexion). While the 2016 labour law confirmed the right to disconnect, it’d been a 2004 judgement of the Court of Cassation that’d introduced the concept to French policy makers. France’s highest court found an employee’s failure to answer their work phone outside their agreed working hours wasn’t a valid reason for his employer to fire them.
The right to disconnect is codified into article L2242-17 of France’s Labour Code. The code doesn’t define its implementation, leaving employers and employees to determine the arrangements that best suit their respective needs. Indeed, article L2242-17 simply requires annual negotiations between employers and employees to determine the limits between the latter’s work lives and personal lives. However, French authorities take the right to disconnect seriously, as a 2018 Court of Cassation ruling that an employee is entitled to extra pay whenever they’re asked to be available to take work-related calls outside their rostered working hours shows. The court ordered the French arm of pest control company Rentokil Initial to pay €60,000 in compensation to its former regional director.
Different countries have taken different approaches regarding right-to-disconnect policies. For example, Italy, Ireland and Spain have followed France’s lead, each introducing legislation that grants employees the right not to respond to work-related communications outside their agreed working hours without the fear of penalty. In Germany, it’s companies that have shown the greatest initiative, with chief executives of many German organisations, including Daimler, Siemens and Volkswagen, negotiating with unions about what policies to implement to ensure employees feel able to disconnect.
Operational since April 2020, the Victoria Police (Police Officers, Protective Services Officers, Police Reservists and Police Recruits) Enterprise Agreement 2019 contains the following clause:
59. Right to disconnect outside of effective working hours for protective services officers, constables, senior constables, sergeants and senior sergeants
59.1 Supervisors and managers must respect employees’ periods of leave and rest days.
59.2 Other than in emergency situations or genuine welfare matters, employees must not be contacted outside of the employee’s hours of work unless the employee is in receipt of an availability allowance pursuant to clause 56.
59.3 Employees are not required to read or respond to emails or phone calls outside their effective working hours.