Given the latest technological developments and the increasing possibilities to be working remotely, the borders between work and life are increasingly blurred. It is considered that such phenomenon, if not adequately managed, may have a negative impact on the employees’ health.

Therefore, the idea of a “right to disconnect” or a “right to be offline” is starting to gain interest. Such right could, for example, imply that employees are allowed not to respond to any emails or other work-related messages during certain periods of time.

Whilst such "right to disconnect" is, so far, mostly discussed in blogs, France has taken it to the next level by including it in the upcoming (and much contested) Loi Travail. In summary, the draft law introduces a right to disconnect in the use of communication technology in order to respect the employee’s right to rest and take holiday. The aim is, in particular, to protect workers who do not have fixed daily or weekly working hours but who work under annualised working time. An abusive use of communication technologies will indeed more easily occur with employees working under flexible work schedules.

With matrix organisations, home working, decentralised and digital workplaces gaining more importance, it cannot be excluded that the same considerations will lead to legislative initiatives in other jurisdictions in the coming years (see our latest Global Employment newsletter). 

How a "right to disconnect" will be implemented and monitored in practice raises a number of employment and data privacy questions. This is, however, likely to become an important topic in the debate about sustainable work-life balance, in order for Industry 4.0 to be workable for people in the long term.