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The Working Time Directive Review. Paul Sellers TUC Policy Officer TUC working time goals. To improve the balance between work and life To give workers more choice over their hours and patterns of work To end excessive working time.

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the working time directive review

The Working Time Directive Review

Paul Sellers

TUC Policy Officer

tuc working time goals
TUC working time goals
  • To improve the balance between work and life
  • To give workers more choice over their hours and patterns of work
  • To end excessive working time
many workers want fewer hours
Many workers want fewer hours
  • The Government’s Labour Force Survey reports that:

- 9.6 million employees want fewer hours

- of which, 2.3 million want fewer hours even if this means less pay

- plus a further 3.5 million of which want fewer hours just by cutting their unpaid overtime

Source: ONS LFS Microdata service summer 2005

problems with long hours
Problems with long hours
  • Health and safety put at risk
  • Low productivity
  • Family life under pressure
  • Many women are discouraged from entering long hours occupations
long hours and health and safety
Long hours and health and safety
  • Working more than 48 hours per week increases the risk of contracting heart disease, stress-related illness, depression, diabetes mellitus, serious headaches and bowel problems
  • In some cases, such as driving, long hours also increases the risk of having an accident.
  • Exposure safety limits for noise, dangerous substances and Repetitive Strain Injury all assume a 40 hour working week. (see also Slaying the Myths
long hours and stress
Long hours and stress
  • ''Regularly working in excess of 48 hours per week appears to constitute a significant occupational stressor which reduces job satisfaction, increases the effects of other stressors and significantly increases the risk of mental health problems.

- 'Working time: Its impact on safety and health', Anne Spurgeon, International Labour Organisation, 2003, p11

  • 'Working long hours does seem to be associated with stress and poorer psychological health outcomes‘

- 'Working Long Hours', Health and Safety Laboratory, HSE, 2002, p.19

working time regs 1998
Working Time Regs 1998
  • 48 hours average week (UK individual opt-outs)
  • 8 hour night/ 48 hour weekly limit on night work
  • Free health checks for night workers
  • Weekly rest – 1 day
  • Daily rest – 11 hours
  • In-work break of 20 minutes if day more than 6 hours long
  • 4 weeks paid annual leave

(see -

  • Limits: 48 hours week, nightwork

-HSE - factories, building sites, mines, farms, fairgrounds, quarries, chemical plants, nuclear installations, offshore installations (but see below!), railways, schools, hospitals, mobile workers in road transport other than HGV/PSV, employed taxi drivers and couriers. -Local authorities - shops and retailing, offices, hotels and catering, sports, leisure and consumer services.

  • Entitlements: weekly, daily and in-work rest breaks, free health checks for night workers

- worker must take case to employment tribunal

different working time rules
Different working time rules

16 and 17 year old workers

  • 40 hour maximum week
  • 2 days rest per week
  • Prohibition on nightwork – but with partial and total exemptions for certain occupations

Mobile transport workers

  • Seafarers directive – implemented by MCA 2002
  • Inland waterway workers – WTD, but implemented by MCA 2003 (with no opt-out!)
  • Aircraft pilots and cabin crew – Aviation Working Time Directive – implemented by CAA 2003
  • HGV and PSV drivers – Road Transport (Working Time) Directive implemented VOSA 2005
the opt out from the working time directive 48 hour week
The opt-out from the Working Time Directive 48-hour week
  • Individuals can opt out of the 48 hour average weekly limit
  • It can not be right that individuals can choose whether to obey health and safety law
  • However, in practice few get a free choice. The law is widely abused.
  • A Government study* suggests that 600,000 long hours workers were put under pressure to sign the opt-out.

*BRMB Social Research, 'A survey of workers' experiences of the Working Time Regulations', DTI Employment Relations Research Series No.31, November 2004

the uk government position is mixed
The UK Government position is mixed
  • Patricia Hewitt made a formal commitment to ‘’make serious inroads into the long hours culture’’ within 5 years (speech Feb 2002)
  • They have been willing to legislate to extend maternity leave and to introduce new working time rights
  • They have made some effort to spread best practice in working time
  • But - they argue strongly for the continuation of the opt-out from the 48 hour week
  • … and more to come – the Warwick Commitments -including public holidays to be additional to 4 weeks leave
the working time directive 2003 88 ec review procedure
The Working Time Directive 2003/88/EC review - procedure
  • Working time directive had to be reviewed in 2003

- 7 years after it took effect

  • The review is conducted under Co-decision Procedure*:

1: European Commission proposes text

2: European Parliament (simple majority) and Council of Ministers (qualified majority) agree separately on amendments to the texts

3: EP and CoM discuss each others amendments

4: 2 readings each. if no agreement, proposals then go to conciliation

*See also

the wtd review 2003 the story so far
The WTD review 2003 – the story so far
  • European Commission published revisions (Sept 2004)
  • European Parliament agreed amended text (11 May 2005)
  • Council of Ministers failed to reach QMV agreement on amendments. Split - 7 wanted more liberalisation/10 agreed with the EC proposals/ 7 wanted more social protection/ 1 abstention
  • As Council of Ministers failed to agree, European Commission withdrew original text and issued new version (30 May 2005)
  • Informal meeting of Council of Ministers could not agree on new text (2 June 2005)
  • Text currently with COREPER (Council of Perm Reps)
  • Review is blocked at the moment….. but may still conclude in 2006/7 and take effect at some point between 2009-2013.
the european commission s revised text
The European Commission’s revised text
  • Averaging period for 48 hour week up from 17 weeks to 52 weeks
  • But employers have duty to ensure health and safety are protected
  • ‘Inactive part’ of on-call time spent on employers’ premised can count as a fraction of normal working time – but not as a rest break
  • Opt-out from 48 hour hour week would be phased out by 2012;
  • But those already using the opt-out could apply to the EC for an extension for ‘reasons relating to their labour market conditions’
  • But opt out would be under tighter conditions of use – max 55 hrs in any week; renewable every year, not signed before commencement or during probation period; employers keep records of hours worked
  • Workers would have the right to notice of their working patterns, and the right to request flexible working.

Note - dossiers for all EU legislative proposals are at

view of the european parliament
View of the European Parliament

ETUC and TUC General Council both back the Parliament's proposals as best deal on offer:

  • Ref period for 48 hour week increased to 52 weeks but where there are no TU agreements employers would have to inform and consult their workers and take measures to ensure that H&S is protected
  • ‘Inactive’ part of on-call time at the employers premises may be counted as a fraction of normal working time
  • Opt-outs should end 3 years after EC review concludes;
  • Workers should have the right to 4 weeks notice of their working patterns, and a right to request flexible working.
  • ‘Autonomous workers’ exemption to be tightened
view of the social affairs council
View of the Social Affairs Council
  • Averaging period for 48 hour week to be extended from 17 weeks to 52 weeks - no restrictions
  • Inactive part of on call time should not count
  • Council of Ministers divided on the opt out:

-but have not fully discussed EC’s new proposals

-and possible that 3-way split could reduce to 2 opposing positions: countries defending the opt-out as necessary for economic growth vs those that considered a 12 month reference period as offering enough flexibility to allow the opt-out to be phased out.

latest news
Latest news
  • Social Affairs Council working party discussed WTD in Sept 2005

-UK reps sought clarification on on-call work proposals and the interaction with rest breaks

-UK plus 7 others want to strike out article 2b, which concerns reconciliation of work and family life – EC unlikely to agree

  • In October the EU employers org UNICE finalised its position in favour of – both individual and collective bargaining opt outs; 12 month ref period, extendable to 24 months by CB, on call work should not count.
  • October meeting of ETUC agreed to urge EP to hold its line.
  • UK Govt still committed to try to gain agreement at the Dec 2005 Social Affairs Council meeting (T.B. speech 26 Oct 2005).
the wtd review prospects for breaking the logjam
The WTD Review – prospects for breaking the logjam
  • There is still some pressure on Governments to conclude the review because of the on-call issue – hence UK Govt’s enthusiasm for issue
  • but this is weakening a bit as the review drags and more countries use the opt-out in a limited way to avoid the on-call judgments (7 member states to date, 9 more are considering it)
  • EU presidencies matter – UK followed by sceptical Austria, then better prospects under more friendly Finland (July 2006)
tuc campaign against long hours
TUC campaignagainst long hours
  • Campaign to change the law
    • end the opt-out
    • extend the right to request different working patterns
  • Campaign against unpaid overtime

- Feb 24 2006: 3rd TUC Work Your Proper Hours Day

  • Argue the business case against long hours
  • Campaign for better enforcement
  • Encourage collective bargaining to deal with long hours
  • Review Road Transport Working time Directive (spring 2006)
campaigning with the current law
campaigning with the current law
  • Risk assessments and stress audits
  • The 48 hour week – challenging the opt-out
  • Nightwork limits – no opt-out!
  • On-call work on the employers’ premises
  • Rest breaks – very low awareness
  • Annual leave – est. 1 million underpaid