German Labor Ministry Bans After-Hours Employee Contact
In a previous post, we examined whether employees could owe overtime pay to non-exempt employees who use their company smartphones after normal working hours and how employers should establish clear policies governing smartphone usage.
In Germany, this need for clarity was highlighted when the country’s labor ministry recently banned managers from contacting employers after-hours except in case of emergency. . Under the guidelines, employees are not to be penalized for failing to check voicemails after hours and should only be contacted if the matter cannot wait until the next workday. Other German employers, including BMW and Volkswagen, have also established policies to limit after-hours contact. The policy comes in the wake of an apparent suicide by a Swiss telecom executive who had admitted the constant use of his smartphone caused him extreme stress.
While these guidelines were established to protect the “mental health” of employees rather than to avoid overtime pay, the principle is the same. Employers and employees both benefit when clear policies are established and communicated.