The idea of a contract is quite strange because it is an agreement that is codified in law. People voluntarily agree to have conditions placed upon their life so that they can derive some sort of benefit. In the case of employment, the benefit is obvious since everyone needs money to survive. However, the degree to which those same people are willing to trade away whole swaths of their time and part of their autonomy depends on the position for which they are applying, and the company for which they intend to work. Some contracts will be quite simple and stipulate just how many hours the employee is expected to work to meet the expectations of their employer and receive their wage in return. Of course, lots of employment laws necessitate that other protections and rights are codified in the agreement, such as the ability to take time off when sick, or to have extended leave for maternity or paternity for instance. However, any stipulations beyond this are at the discretion of the employer. Some of these can be rather restrictive, but for good reason. Non-disclosure agreements are intended to protect a company’s data and intellectual property so that they can maintain a sizable market share. However, others can seem rather draconian, such as so-called ‘zero hour contracts’ which shift the burden of the tumultuous changes in the market to the employee who cannot feasibly plan their financial future because they do not have the requisite assurance that they will be able to earn enough money to get a mortgage, for instance. This is why a major political party in the UK has promised to ban them.
The separation of employees’ personal and professional lives is becoming increasingly blurred. It is for this reason that the French government passed a law last year which enshrined for French citizens a new right: to disconnect. As of 1 January this year, French workers no longer have to check their work emails outside of their contractual work hours. Technology has improved a lot of aspects of modern life, but not being able to escape the stresses of work is not a great one. In fact, lots of businesses try to close the gap between their employees’ leisure time and their work. This is happening particularly with the use of phones. Enterprise BYOD refers to software that you can buy to help you manage employees who have been told that they can ‘bring your own device’. It is an important thing to think about though. If your employees have sensitive company information on their personal devices, whether they are a smartphone or a tablet, that information is more vulnerable to being breached or stolen. Mitigating against these possibilities is a good idea.
In a broader sense, the issue of the personal and professional can be understood from a legal perspective. A lot of the information about a person that is described as personal is not able to be used in consideration of their application for a job or as a factor in their possible dismissal. The statute books are clear on this point. A person’s age, race, gender or sexuality is not a concern from a business perspective. Transgressing this right could instigate expensive legal action.
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