Employers have slammed a European Commission study on the alleged abuse of
the Working Time Directive (WTD) in the UK as an exaggeration, which paints
Britain as a "nightmare hole" to work in.
The survey found that 16 per cent of staff in the UK work over the
48-hour-a-week limit stipulated by European legislation – more than any other
The report said the findings were ‘a problem and a source of concern for the
UK labour market’ and the commission has now opened a three-month consultation
with a view to revising the WTD.
However, Susan Anderson, director of human resources policy at the CBI, strongly
refuted the findings.
"UK employees have more choice about the hours they work than those
almost anywhere else in Europe," she said. "They value that
flexibility and so do employers."
David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy at the Engineering
Employers’ Federation said the commission had exaggerated the supposed abuses
and that many workers needed the additional income.
Law firm Eversheds has also warned that the loss of the 48-hour opt-out
would put a brake on the economy, as employers would struggle to find staff.
However, a separate report by consultants Croner claims that many in HR take
a different view. A survey of 114 HR managers found 61 percent of respondents
thought employers should not be able to ask people to work more than the
The DTI told Personnel Today it would consider improving the application of
the WTD, such as workers only signing the opt-out after their employment
contracts and reviews of how certain sectors applied the rules.
By Michael Millar
The European Commission consultation on Working Time (WT) asks for responses
on five main issues:
– the length of reference periods over which WT is assessed
– the definition of WT following recent European Court of
– the conditions for the application of the opt-out
– measures to improve the balance between work and family life
– how to find the best balance of these measures.