Clocking off: Manchester stress specialist calls on UK to follow France in post-6pm work call and email ban

A Manchester therapist has backed the French government’s ban on extra-long working hours – and wants the stress-beating measure brought to the UK.

The new French law will affect around 250,000 employees who work in technology and consultancy, including the French branches of Facebook and Google.

Workers will be legally obliged to ‘disconnect’ from their work after 6pm, meaning that emails and phone calls will have to remain unanswered until the next working day.

Companies also have to ensure that their employees are placed under no pressure to ignore the ruling as the French government attempts to improve life for workers outside of the office.

Keith Chadwick, Director of Private Psychotherapy service at Manchester’s Centre for CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and a therapist himself, has seen an increase in cases of work-related stress over the last few years.

“What the decision says is that we need to have measures in place relating to how people manage their work and non-work lives and how they can achieve a balance,” he told MM.

“There’s an increase in stress in the workplace and often people have habits created from working long hours and they no longer have that balance.

“It’s really interesting because they’re really trying to achieve a better health scheme in the workplace by asking people what their boundaries are and how they can manage them better.”

Recent statistics from the Health and Safety Executive showed that 40% of absenteeism at work was down to stress in the last year.

As a therapist, Keith deals with employees who have been forced to take time off work with stress-related conditions and have been referred to him by their employers.

He teaches stress management techniques to allow patients to recognise and then deal with stressful situations.

He says that the new law would help further understanding of how severe stress-related illnesses can be.

“It can include things like workers feeling they are under too much pressure or experiencing a lack of immediate support,” he said.

“As a therapist, I have worked with managers on how to manage stress in the workplace and there has been a definite increase in understanding in the last few years.”

Despite more people switching on to the dangers, Keith fears that the number of cases will continue to rise.

“I suspect the economic downturn may have contributed to increasing numbers of stress,” he added.

“Employers are unable to recruit so when someone leaves the expectation is on the staff to pick up the slack.

“Each job has its own set of pressures and expectations, from businesses and individuals, and it’s important that people understand how to separate work life and home life.”

Image courtesy of stuartpilbrow with thanks

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