A new set of laws took effect at the beginning of the year in France, meant to strike a balance between tradition and inexorable modernization. Some of these laws preserve the abilities of workers to disconnect from work during personal time, seeking a compromise between tradition and the increasing availability of mobile technology to keep employees plugged in to work at all times. Making the case for the law last year, Myriam EL Khomri, minister of labor, said:
“Employees are more and more connected during hours outside of the office. The boundary between professional and personal life has become tenuous.”
She also cited increasingly frequent cases of “burnout” as a result. The measure requires companies with more than 50 employees to determine work protocol that protects days off and time after work. Recommendations have included limiting the use of the “reply all” email function, and setting a specific time in the evening after which employees are no longer expected to reply to emails. Some companies have designated 10 hours from 9 P.M until 7 A.M, while others have set aside 12 hours from 7 P.M until 7 A.M.
Another measure seeks to modernize and streamline the divorce process in France, where they have routinely taken one year or more to complete in the traditionally Catholic nation. Cases often became backed up waiting for a judicial signature. The new laws make it so that when both parties have agreed to the divorce, lawyers can have the agreement signed and notarized, finalizing the divorce without the involvement of judges.
The measure also includes laws mandating “neutral packaging” for tobacco products, meaning packaging will include health warnings and photos of related diseases, without advertising a brand. New laws mandate the use of reusable, partially plant-based supermarket bags to replace thin plastic bags. Another law bans the use of pesticides in public gardens and along highways, seeking to make public spaces safer for small animals. This is likely to prove challenging to cities and gardeners, as it did in the city of Lyon when they banned pesticides nine years ago. The city is now viewed as a model for progressing away from harmful pesticides.
In 2019, the ban will expand to apply to amateur gardeners.
Other laws allow prepared food to be labeled “produit d’origine française” if the ingredients come entirely from France. Products with more than 8 percent foreign meat, or 50 percent foreign milk, must specify the origins of the ingredients.