German employment minister Andrea Nahles is considering new “anti-stress” legislation, banning companies from contacting employees out of hours.
Reacting to rising levels of workplace stress, Nahles has commissioned a report investigating the viability of legislation that would restrict the use of emails to contact staff outside of work.
Speaking to the Rheinische Post on Tuesday, Nahles said: “There is an undeniable relationship between constant availability and the increase of mental illness. We have commissioned the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to work out whether it is possible to set load thresholds. We need universal and legally binding criteria.”
It is already illegal in Germany for employees to contact staff during holidays. Several major companies such as Volkswagen and BMW have also implemented their own restrictions on contacting employees out of hours. Last year the German Labour Ministry banned managers from contacting staff outside of work. Recently, car manufacturer Daimler installed software on its systems which automatically deletes emails sent to staff out of hours.
This month, a study by the German Pension Insurance Union (DGB) showed that increasing numbers of German workers are retiring early through stress. The pressure to remain constantly in touch with managers and colleagues was reported to be a key cause. The newspaper Bild recently ran a headline story claiming that one in five German employees is reachable to bosses out of hours.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal at the time, Clemens Kirschbaum, professor of psychology at the Dresden University of Technology said: “Far too little time is spent switched off, just to withdraw in peace. It’s not conducive to good health.”
The findings of the workplace stress report will be delivered next year.
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