Work hours law fails to shorten UK working week

More people are working in excess of 48 hours a week than 10 years ago,
despite the introduction of the Working Time Directive, research by the TUC

Nearly 4 million employees work more than the directive’s 48-hour limit –
350,000 more than in 1992.

One in four men work over 48 hours and one in 10 work even longer. Over 1
million men work more than 55 hours a week and one in 25 work in excess of
60-hour weeks.

The UK tops the European long-hours league and is the only country that
allows staff to opt out of the 48-hour limit.

TUC general secretary John Monks warns employers they will have to organise
their workforce so they are able to work shorter hours, because in 2003
Brussels will end the UK’s 48-hour opt-out.

He said: "Britain’s long-hours culture is a disgrace. It leads to
stress, ill-health and family strains. Even worse, it is an indictment of how
badly we manage work in the UK."

The report About Time: A New Agenda for Working Life also reveals a class
divide in the hours staff work.

More than half of all managerial and professional employees working extra
hours say they are doing so to deal with excess workloads, while 70 per cent of
skilled and manual employees report they are earning overtime pay.

"Half the country is caught in a vicious circle of low pay, low
productivity and long hours with the other half trapped in their offices
tackling ever bigger in trays. Other countries produce more, earn more and work
far fewer hours. We could do the same if employers, unions and Government work
together," said Monks.

By Ben Willmott

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