Work time directive: what it means to SafeContractor members

The 48 hour maximum working week limit of the Working Time Directive has again been subject to heated debate recently.

The European Court of Justice ruled on the 10th September 2015 that travel time between home and the first and last customer appointments in a working day must be considered in relation to the 48 hour maximum working week for peripatetic workers with no ‘fixed or habitual’ place of work. This closes what has been considered by trade unions to be a significant ‘loophole’ whereby workers were often working 60+ hours a week in unaccounted work time.

The UK is the only European country that allows staff to opt out of the 48-hour working week ceiling defined by the directive and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) states that the UK tops the “European long hours league” and in March estimated that UK workers gave their bosses nearly £32bn worth of unpaid overtime last year. New research by the TUC also shows that the number of employees working more than 48 hours a week has risen by 15% to 3.4 million since 2010.

The TUC called on the government to "reassess its negative view" of the directive. Frances O'Grady, TUC general secretary, said that the "long hours culture" in the UK was "hitting productivity and putting workers' health at risk".

Despite pressure from the TUC and the European Court of Justice ruling, EU minister David Lidington in a recent letter to the TUC stated that retaining the right of UK workers to opt out of a maximum 48-hour working week will be one of the government's priorities when it seeks to renegotiate the terms of the UK's membership of the EU. The UK also hoped to "address problems caused by European Court judgments on on-call time, compensatory rest and holiday pay" as part of the negotiations.

The TUC called on the government to "reassess its negative view" of the directive. Frances O'Grady, TUC general secretary, said that the "long hours culture" in the UK was "hitting productivity and putting workers' health at risk".

What does this mean to SafeContractor members?

·         SafeContractor members need to make sure that they are fully aware of the requirements of the Working Time Regulations (the UK’s implementation of the directive). For further information see the gov.uk website or contact Responseline (a SafeContractor membership benefit) on 02920 852852 or via the contact form

·         Members should assess whether they actually need staff to work more than 48 hours a week. A thorough assessment of working methods, productivity and worker well-being may demonstrate that a re-arrangement of working methods can actually increase productivity and profit while allowing staff to work less.

·         Where it is deemed necessary for workers to work more than 48 hours a week, Members should ensure that written confirmation is obtained from staff who wish to opt-out.

    

Post date: 01 Oct 2015

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