Workplace rights: Email emancipation

Know your rights when it comes to emailing outside of work.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Last December, Volkswagen in Germany confirmed that it had agreed to stop its BlackBerry servers sending emails to employees after their shifts had ended, following complaints about their work and home lives 'becoming blurred'. Meanwhile, Brazil has passed new legislation entitling workers to overtime compensation for answering work emails while off duty. And French IT company Atos is planning the more radical step of banning internal email altogether.

Such developments may signal an incipient revolt against the tendency for email - and its availability on mobile devices - to foster an 'always available' employee mind-set. There seems to be a growing awareness that 24/7 online accessibility may negatively affect employee performance and wellbeing. These straws in the wind coincide with the resumption of EU-level discussions on reforming the Working Time Directive. The ease with which workers can now respond to email any time - and the pressure on many to do so - should form part of both those negotiations and the wider, ongoing debate about excessive hours and work/life balance.

Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors, email: employment@lewissilkin.com.

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