New bill wants to give employees the right to ignore email after-hours

Do you dread answering work emails long after you have left work? A new New York City bill wants to help you ward off demanding bosses who expect answers at all hours of the day and night.

Proposed by New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal, the local bill would “make it unlawful for private employees in the city of New York to require an employee to check and respond to email and other electronic communications during non-work hours.”

If the bill passed, New York City bosses with at least 10 employees would no longer be allowed to expect and demand an online response from their employees after-hours.

Employees would be able to disconnect from work emails

The bill aims to buy back employees the personal time they lose when they are not allowed to put their phones away at home. “While technology has increased access to people and ideas, it’s also made it possible for employees to be on-call 24/7,” Espinal said about why he was proposing it. “We need to establish clear boundaries for employees so they can maintain a healthy work-life balance and live without fear of retaliation for not answering work communications after work hours.”

Espinal said he was inspired by similar bills which have passed in Europe. In France, for example, employers with more than 50 employees are required to guarantee them the right to disconnect from technology after they clock out from work. “Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work,” French politician Benoit Hamon told the BBC about why a government intervention was needed. “They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash – like a dog.”

Technology has made it easier to work all the time

That’s the gift and curse of technology: When we can work anywhere, we can always be working. And that has a cost on our home life. It can make us resent our partners.

One study found that when your partner looks at their phone at home, it creates relationship tension that affects your job performance. And those long hours of emailing back and forth don’t even help our careers. One five-year survey found that employees’ performances would sharply decline if they worked more than 65 hours a week.

The rise of “right to disconnect” bills recognize that technology has blurred the boundaries between work and play. They want to help employees by drawing a clear line on to what extent technology can intrude on our personal lives.