EU moves to end UK’s 48-hour week opt-out

Employers in the UK are likely to be forced to restrict staff to working a
48-hour week following a review of the Working Time Directive.

Currently, employers and staff in the UK can opt out of the Working Time
Directive, but behind-the-scenes talks in Brussels have revealed this is likely
to end as soon as next November.

HR professionals fear that losing the opt-out will drive up labour costs and
demand increased planning.

Bruce Warman, personnel director of Vauxhall, said: "It could have a
real impact on our workforce. Without the opt-out it would be very difficult to
staff a plant properly and would probably mean getting in contract workers.
That would increase costs and take work away from our current employees,"
he added.

The European Commission is about to start a review of the directive and the
commissioner responsible, Fernando Pereira, expects to submit his
recommendations in 12 months.

David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy at the Engineering
Employers Federation (EEF), believes the opt-out will be abolished, following
his face-to-face meetings with Pereira.

"There will be a lot of pressure for it to go when it’s reviewed by the
commission because it’s an individual opt- out just for the UK," he said.

Full compliance with the Working Time Directive will also affect the working
patterns of senior managers, said Mary Mallett, strategic director at Kent
County Council and vice-president of the Society of Chief Personnel Officers.

"It will be difficult to calculate a working pattern for senior
managers," she said. "We’ll have to look very hard at how managers
work because often it means long hours, attending public meetings and working
from home."

By Ross Wigham

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