British workers oppose moves to end the UK’s opt-out to the working time
directive, according to a new study.
A clear majority of those who work more than 48 hours a week do so largely
as a result of their own choice rather than employer compulsion, research by
the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) claims.
The survey of more than 750 long-hours workers, Calling Time on Working
Time?, also claims there is little evidence of any employer abuse of the
Around three-quarters of staff who sign the clause do so as a result of
their own choice rather than any employer pressure, and only a minority
actually sign the clause at the same time as signing their employment contracts
– a key concern identified in the European Commission’s consultation, which
closed last week.
Gerwyn Davies, the report’s author, said: "Our survey shows that
long-hours workers are opposed to the removal of the opt-out and in particular
any moves to restrict their freedom to choose to work long hours.
"The issue of long hours working is complex. It cannot be addressed by
a uniform ban.
"The negative effects of long-hours working are evident from the
report, but these are best solved by employer measures, such as flexible
working arrangements, rather than a blanket ban on long hours working."
The survey clearly illustrates the potentially damaging effects of long
hours on employee welfare and productivity. Around 10 per cent of employees
report physical effects and 17 per cent an impact on mental health.
More than a third of staff report that working long hours negatively affects
their performance, with a significant proportion believing they could be just
as effective and productive if they cut their working hours.
Key findings of the long-hours survey
– Seven out of 10 respondents stated that it was partly or
totally their choice to work in excess
of 48 hours. However, 30 per cent claimed that there was an element of
compulsion, which was up from 11 per cent in 1998
– The majority of respondents working 48 or more hours a week
were putting in the extra hours consistently throughout the year. Almost
three-quarters (73 per cent) of those working 48 or more hours a week did so
either most weeks or every week
– Six out of 10 respondents who had signed the opt-out clause
did so after the date of signing the employment contract, with some 37 per cent
signing on the date itself
– The biggest regret among respondents working 48 hours or more
a week was the fact that they missed out on leisure and hobby time. This was
put forward by almost seven out of
10 (69 per cent) people. Strain on
partner relationships was also a key concern (47 per cent)
– Almost half (45 per cent) of respondents believed their
companies encouraged the working of long hours
– More than four out of 10 respondents (41 per cent) claimed
they could maintain the same level of productivity while cutting back the
number of hours worked each week
– When explicitly asked whether the EU should have the right to
limit the number of hours staff work, a clear majority (66 per cent) were
against the notion
– Fewer than one in three workers can identify the number of
hours set out by the Working Time Directive