This month’s letters

Not all gain from strict hours control

Janice Gibson (Letters, January) suggests that annualised hours address the
"family-unfriendly" stress-inducing long-hours culture in the UK. But
I would like to sound a note of caution.

For some employees, including some at high risk of stress, annualised hours
are a perfect solution. People who set their own workloads and work at their
own pace (usually super-fast) would benefit enormously from a system that
guaranteed them good wages for a healthy annual workload.

Sadly, many people – including most of those referred to in Janice’s letter
– do not have jobs like that. The flexibility that annualised hours bring to
employers is not always as flexible for their employees.

They can mean a return to seasonal employment – punishing schedules over
public holidays such as Christmas and Easter when they would prefer to be with
their families – or in some cases when they have to provide their own childcare
because the schools are closed – followed by enforced idleness just when the
kids are back at school.

If employees who already have little control over the content of their job
have their hours determined by managers and the vagaries of the production
cycle, the result could be more stress, not less.

The main problem of working time in Britain is not the way it is organised,
nor is it the directive which contains lots of opportunities for flexibility.
The problem is that people have to work too long, and unacceptably long
annualised hours would be no solution at all.

The answer is simple. Let your employees go home more often, and cut the
hours they need to work to make a living.

Owen Tudor
Senior policy officer, TUC

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