UK Wins Round One
The UK has won the first stage of the fight to maintain its opt out from the European Working Time Directive. EU employment ministers were due to make a decision on removing the clause after the European Parliament voted in May to scrap the opt out by 2012, but it is understood, enough ministers opposed the plan to prevent the vote taking place. The issue can only return to parliament once ministers have voted and the issue is likely to drag into 2006.
The European Parliament and a number of EU member states want all nations to uphold a working week of no longer than 48 hours, and with unions claiming that long hours sap creativity while increasing stress, pressure is building on those countries in favour of the opt out to reconsider their position.
The UK still maintain that the opt out is vital for competitiveness and job creation, and believe that if employees wish to work longer than 48 hours, they should be free to do so.
The issue is not likely to return until next year, especially as the UK takes over the EU presidency for six months from 1 July, and will almost inevitably aim to put the divisive matter firmly at the back of the agenda.
What can be certain is that tighter controls will be placed over industry to ensure that accurate clocking times are logged for each individual employee within a company. A good time and attendance system will ensure that your company is able to easily abide by this legislation.