Stand Firm On Working Time Directive

The UK Government is right to stand firm over the UK opt-out from the Working Time Directive, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). The CIPD commented as reports from Brussels suggested that a deal between the UK and EU on retaining the opt-out was close.

CIPD research has shown that the vast majority of long-hours workers choose to do so, and would resent any moves to remove their right to continue doing so. The UK also leads Europe on flexible working, and as a result average working hours in the UK are not high by EU standards.

Mike Emmott, CIPD Employee Relations Adviser, said: "Working excessively long hours is not to be encouraged, and can bring problems for employers and employees. But existing protection under the Working Time Directive has removed the vast majority of the element of compulsion in long-hours working. Most people who work long hours genuinely choose to do so."

"There is an argument for better enforcement and more awareness raising of existing regulations to tackle the minority of cases where employers are abusing the opt out provisions. The bigger job is educating managers and employees to focus more on work outputs than hours worked, and of the risks to health and business performance of excessively long-hours."

There is a myth across parts of Europe that the Anglo-Saxon labour market model leaves workers enslaved, whereas the European social model sets them free. But analysis of the facts shows that there are many areas – flexible working for example – where UK employees get a better deal from our emerging Anglo Social Model.

There is much room for improvement in people management in UK firms to boost productivity, for example by reducing absenteeism and increasing effectiveness at work.

The CIPD report ‘Calling Time on Working Time?’, surveyed 750 long hours workers who work more than 48 hours. It addresses many of the issues raised by those in Europe who wish to see the UK opt out removed. The survey found:

  • More than three-quarters of long hours workers say that they do so as a result of their own choice.
  • Fewer than a third of employees sign an opt-out clause at the same time as signing their employment contracts.
  • 10% of employees report that long hours working causes damaging physical effects, while 17% cite mental health problems.

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