Working Time Directive review could cost employers

A looming European consultation into the Working Time Directive (WTD) will confirm a strong desire among employers to create greater flexibility around working time laws for staff, but will also reveal huge disparities between countries on how this will be achieved, law firm Eversheds has said.

A report compiled by the firm last month revealed that European Union member states would like to see around 14 separate working time-related issues reviewed when the WTD is updated.

Owen Warnock, partner at Eversheds, said: “It is clear that although there is a consensus across Europe that the WTD in its current form is outdated and ripe for change, each member country has different issues with the current directive.”

The issues raised in the Eversheds report included: the weekly rest break, the 48-hour week, holiday days, overtime, annual working hours, weekend working, and night work.

According to the law firm, there is a general consensus that the current WTD is outdated and in need of reform. However, the diversity of member states’ interests could result in more regulation and increased costs to businesses during a time of recovery.

Warnock added: “There are real concerns that the sheer diversity of member states’ interests will result in a failure to reach a consensus for reform. At worst, the European Commission’s review could result in more red tape, adding to the cost of doing business in the EU at a key time in the economic cycle.”

Last year, the UK retained its right to opt out of the maximum 48-hour working week in the WTD.

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