UK employers under fire over working time

Employers could be forced to measure the amount of time staff work
voluntarily beyond normal hours if a complaint about the Government’s handling
of the Working Time Directive is upheld by the European Commission.

Trade union Amicus’ claim that the directive has been unlawfully and
inadequately implemented in the UK is being investigated by the commission,
which has given the DTI two months to respond to its inquiry to prove there is
no breach.

The union alleges that because employees in the UK can volunteer to work
more than the 48-hour maximum working week, this ‘undermines’ the intent of the
directive.

As well as the issue of measurement of voluntary overtime, Amicus is
claiming the UK also fails to enforce workers’ rights to breaks and holidays
and is unhappy with the exclusion of night-shift overtime from the count
towards normal hours.

David Yeandle, EEF deputy director of employment policy, said any decision
was a long way off but should the EC find any irregularities, infringement
proceedings could begin and the Government may be forced to change its
legislation. "Employees have an entitlement to breaks and holidays but
there is no emphasis on the employer to enforce them – it’s all down to the
individual," he explained.

The CBI’s deputy general John Cridland urged the Government to defend the
current interpretation of the legislation. "Ministers have struck a
balance between giving workers the choice not to work long hours and preserving
flexibility. Some unionists do not seem interested in flexibility and only want
to control how long people can work," he said.

By Ross Wigham

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