78 per cent want to keep UK’s Working Time opt-out

UK employers are overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the UK’s opt out from
the Working Time Directive (WTD).

Exclusive research by Personnel Today and the Employment Lawyers Association
(ELA) for the European Commission, which is reviewing the UK’s opt-out, reveals
that almost 80 per cent of organisations want to keep the clause.

The survey of more than 750 employers will provide crucial evidence on the
impact losing the exemption would have on most UK organisations when it is
presented to the commission by the ELA next month.

The research shows employers will be hit hard if the WTD opt-out, giving
staff the right to choose to work longer than 48 hours, is removed.

More than 80 per cent of organisations believe efficiency would suffer if it
is removed and 43 per cent report that removal would adversely affect their
competitiveness within Europe. Almost 70 per cent think removal would make it
more difficult to deal with seasonal demand.

John Evans, chairman of the international committee of the ELA, said the
findings will help show the European Commission how important the opt-out is to
many UK employers.

"We suspect Brussels does not realise the extent of the opt-out’s
significance. The EC has been sceptical about the opt-out but it is important
to UK businesses."

The study reveals that 64 per cent of employers in our survey who are using
the opt-out would expect wage bills to increase if the UK’s exemption from the
WTD was ended, 47 per cent anticipate that staff turnover would increase and 46
per cent predict a rise in moonlighting.

Valerie Richie, HR manager at Whitelink Seafoods, is in no doubt that her
company would suffer if the opt-out goes.

"We have low unemployment in this area at the moment, so we already
find it hard to get the staff we need," she said.

"Without the opt-out we couldn’t be competitive, we couldn’t keep up
with demand and we would lose contracts."

By Quentin Reade

Options still open says commissioner

Fernando Pereira, the European Commissioner responsible for
reviewing the UK’s opt-out from the Working Time Directive, is to start
compiling his report next month.

Pereira, speaking exclusively to Personnel Today last week,
stressed that all options are open including retention of the opt-out, removal
or it being phased out.

His team will consider the views of the DTI, UK employers and
trade unions before producing a report in November to guide the European

"There are a lot of possibilities," he said. "It
is too soon to say. We are waiting for information from the organisations."

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