French companies are now required to guarantee their employees a “right to disconnect” from technology, under new legislation which came into force at the start of the year.

The new law obliges organisations with more than 50 workers to initiate negotiations to define the rights of employees to ignore their smartphones. Overuse of digital devices has been blamed for health effects ranging from burnout to sleeplessness.

The measure is intended to tackle the so-called “always-on” work culture that has led to a surge in usually unpaid overtime – whilst also giving employees flexibility to work outside the office.

The measure was introduced by Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri, who commissioned a report that warned about the health impact of info-obesity’, which afflicts many workplaces.

Trade unions had long demanded action to curb work spilling out of the office. In 2014, a legally binding agreement reached by employers’ federations and unions meant workers in the technology and consultancy sectors no longer had to answer work emails or phone calls outside work hours. This deal obliged staff to disconnect from work calls and emails after working hours.