Rentokil ordered to pay 'always-on' employee for out of hours work

    Rentokil ordered to pay 'always-on' employee for out of hours work

    Rentokil Initial has been ordered to pay a former employee €60,000 (£53,000) because it failed to respect his ‘right to disconnect’ when he wasn’t working – the Telegraph reports.

    France’s Court de Cassation, the country’s Supreme Court, ruled that it was unfair for the ex-employee, a former South West regional director of the company in France dubbed ‘Mr Y’, to have to “permanently leave his telephone on…to respond to requests from his subordinates or customers” in case of any problems while not at work.

    Mr Y took Rentokil to a tribunal after he was fired in 2011 for asking for compensation for the extra hours he had to be on call. The company initially said he had not been officially on call while not in the office after hours or on holidays and weekends because there was no stipulation that he needed to remain close to his home to field calls and deal with emergency business.

    However, the court said that given that his number was provided as one of the directors to call should problems arise, that amounted to him being ‘on call’, and that he needed to be paid for his time.

    The French ‘right to disconnect’ law, which came into force in 2017, means firms must tackle the ‘always-on’ work culture - when people perform usually unpaid tasks outside of office hours, such as responding to emails.

    Before this bill, France recognised a right to disconnect for employees working from home – but now this right has been expanded to all employees who use digital and telecommunication tools in their professional life. And in 2000, the country implemented a 35-hour work week.

    This approach seems to be having a positive effect – or at least does not have a negative one. OECD data ranks France’s GDP per hour worked as $66.7 (£47.14), compared with the UK’s $52.7 (£37.25).

    From our magazine

    Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the Manchester Business School, previously told HR Grapevine that working longer hours does not lead to stronger productivity.

    “We have the longest working hours in Europe”, he said. “And the second longest in the developed world. But our productivity is amongst the lowest.

    "We also know that longer hours means worse health.”

    Despite this, many in the UK are failing to get the time away from work that they need to be able to fully destress. More than seven in ten Brits reported that they struggle to switch off from work once they’ve left the office, according to research from CV-Library, with many respondents stating they reply to work-related emails, or make work-related calls, in their free time. 

    “It’s concerning to learn that such a large percentage of UK professionals are continuing to work outside of their contracted hours,” said Lee Biggins, Founder and Managing Director of CV-Library. “While technology has opened us up to a world of opportunities, it also makes it all too easy to access emails and shared drives from home. And it’s clear that this is having a negative impact on their wellbeing, with many losing sleep, feeling increasingly stressed and having less time to enjoy their private lives.” 

    How to combat an always on culture:

    1) Ensure your staff know that, barring serious emergencies, they do not need to work outside of their scheduled hours.

    2) Set the tone from the top by ensuring your senior leaders do not contact staff outside of work.

    3) Turn your email servers off, or block people from recieving emails while they are on holiday. It's drastic, and won't work for every business, but is certainly effective.

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