Scrapping the Working Time Directive opt-out will negatively impact on profits, businesses have warned.
In a survey of 3,000 employers by staff management consultancy Kronos, 50% of respondents were concerned that removing the exemption would negatively affect their sales and profits. Extra recruitment costs and a weakened customer service were some of the main worries, organisations warned.
The exemption currently allows UK employees to voluntarily work more than 48 hours per week. More than one in 10 individuals currently choose to do this. Axing this right would hinder customer service as many staff worked beyond their contracted hours to earn overtime, according to 65% of employers in the survey.
Keith Statham, managing director at Kronos, said: “In the current climate, any negative effect on productivity and customer service will not be welcome by employers.”
The European Parliament voted to axe the opt-out last week, causing concern among business groups including the CBI and EEF. Unions however, were pleased with the vote, arguing the UK must make sure its workers are not exploited by a long-hours culture.
The decision on whether to scrap it indefinitely will be made within eight weeks, once the parliament and European Council have negotiated.
Other survey findings included:
Nine in 10 employers surveyed said that some of their employees work more than the average of 48 hours per week. Some 70% of employers said they would need to make changes to their recruitment and retention practices if the opt-out was removed.
Respondents were considering options that included: implementing a technology solution to help improve productivity and efficiency (50%), using more flexible working contracts (45%); recruiting additional workers (35%) and multi-skilling/training existing employees.
A further 45% of respondents believed it would be difficult or extremely difficult to accurately monitor employee working hours without the opt-out, with half that number fearing admin costs would shoot up.
Last month employers told Personnel Today that pay hikes were inevitable as employees prevented from working overtime would demand extra money or threaten to leave.