Once again, I was dismayed to read that so many of our country’s business leaders are against coming into line with the European Union’s maximum 48-hour working week (Personnel Today, 3 May).
Instead of spreading ‘doom and gloom’ about how this could choke the UK’s economic growth, this legislation should be viewed as a major opportunity to increase competitiveness by improving productivity.
This isn’t simply a case of unions versus business leaders; in fact, both could benefit if working rules are changed.
As a country, we have been sucked into a long-hours/overtime culture. It doesn’t make us more efficient, and places the health and safety of many employees at risk.
There are mechanisms that allow companies to comply with the legislation and to ditch our traditional working patterns. These include systems such as annualisation where hours are worked out over the whole year.
Using this and other methods has already enabled many organisations to comply with the legislation, and with excellent results – for example, reducing absenteeism, increasing productivity and cutting down on labour wastage.
For employees, these systems have the allure of more acceptable and usable leisure time, when work-life balance is becoming increasingly valuable. It is well documented that people in the UK work some of the longest hours in the EU.
I would urge more employers to stop licking their wounds, and to look at positive solutions to ending the opt-out that could actually bring major benefits to their organisations and help us compete more effectively within the global marketplace.
Director, Working Time Solutions