Don’t opt out of work time debate

European Commission has asked the Employment Lawyers Association and Personnel
Today to find out what you think about working time. Send us your views

Today has teamed up with the Employment Lawyers Association (ELA) to find out
your views on the UK’s controversial opt-out from the Working Time Directive.

have been asked by the European Commission to undertake a survey on the use in
the UK of the opt-out from the 48-hour working limit. The findings will help
senior decision-makers in Brussels decide whether the opt-out should be

you have views on its significance to the work environment, then please take
five minutes to fill in this simple questionnaire.

survey offers you a unique opportunity to have a voice in Europe. Not only will
you be able to influence the shape of an important directive by completing the
survey, you could win a fabulous weekend away for two. The destination? Where
else, but the scenic city of Brussels, of course.

Today exclusively revealed that behind-the-scenes talks are taking place in
Brussels which could lead to the UK’s opt-out being removed (News, 12 November).

aim of the 1993 directive was to ensure that EU member states introduce
legislation that protects the health and safety of workers by limiting the
average working time for each seven-day period – including overtime – to 48

states had until November 1996 to implement the directive, but the UK’s opt-out
from the Social Charter delayed the national Working Time Regulations until
October 1998.

regulations brought the directive into force in the UK, and gave employers the
opportunity to ask staff to agree in writing to working more than an average 48
hours per week, usually over a 17-week period.

UK is the only country to have opted out, and has to comply with certain
conditions, which include employers having to get staff agreement to working
more than 48 hours, keeping records and ensuring that staff will not suffer if
they refuse.

UK employers have reacted angrily to the threatened removal of the opt-out.
They fear that it would be detrimental to both business and employees –
claiming it would demand extensive workforce planning and take work away from
staff that want to earn overtime money.

Today’s recent News Barometer survey showed that two-thirds of 140 HR
professionals felt its removal would increase employers’ labour costs.

CIPD, however, says scrapping it would help us tackle the long-hours work
culture and be a step forward for UK plc in the productivity debate. The unions
agree, believing it will improve employment relations.

EC is about to start a review of the directive and the commissioner
responsible, Fernando Pereira, expects to submit his recommendations within the
next 12 months. If he decides to remove the opt-out, it could happen by the end
of next year.

on the launch of the research, John Evans, partner at Coudert Brothers and
chairman of the international committee of the Employment Lawyers Association,
said: "The possible loss of the UK opt-out promises to have a profound
effect on employment practice.

is therefore important that as many people as possible complete the survey and
give their views to the Commission, so they can make an informed decision."

To take part in the survey, click here. Survey closes 9th
December 2002

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