New York City could ban work emails outside office hours

Proposed Right to Disconnect bill mirrors measures introduced in France, Germany, Italy and Philippines

New Yorkers checking their phone's on the subway
(Image credit: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

New York could be latest city to ban work emails outside of office hours, to improve work-life balance.

The proposed Right to Disconnect Bill would prohibit private companies with more than 10 employees from requiring their workers to reply to electronic messages, including texts and emails, outside office hours.

Company bosses would still be able to contact employees outside working hours, but would not be allowed to fire or discipline them for failing to respond. Businesses would also face fines for failing to abide by the rule.

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Councilman Rafael Espinal, who has introduced the bill, told the New York Post: “While technology has increased access to people and ideas, it’s also made it possible for employees to be on-call 24/7.

“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.”

The measures mirror similar restrictions passed in recent years in France, Germany, Italy and the Philippines.

The Independent cited a 2017 study which found the average worker spent an extra eight hours a week sending emails outside work, while “research has shown people who responded to work communications in the evenings have worse quality sleep and are less productive the next day”.

So far, Espinal’s proposal only has limited support among fellow city councillors, although The Wall Street Journal says it is “gaining steam among New York Democrats”.

Speaking to Time Out, Espinal said he has had “an overwhelming amount of positive feedback” but admitted he had also heard some dissent from those who believe that workers in New York, the city that never sleeps, should always be on call.

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