Four in 10 employers report that some of their workers have agreed to work
beyond the 48-hour weekly limit set by the Working Time Directive.
The research, carried out by IRS Employment Review, also shows employers are
keen to keep the UK ‘opt out’ from the directive, which is currently being
reviewed by the European Commission.
The findings of the research – conducted in May and June 2002 – emerge from
a survey of HR managers covering 389 staff groups in 162 public and private
IRS Employment Review managing editor, Mark Crail said: "Britain is
renowned for its long working hours, but the picture – as our research shows –
is more complex. Employers want flexibility to meet changing market conditions
and are keen to keep the UK opt out. But there is also talk among manufacturing
unions of resurrecting the campaign for a shorter working week – spurred on by
the introduction of a 35-hour maximum in France.
"Our research shows that such a campaign has some way to go. Workers in
this country put in long hours through a combination of choice and
The survey also reveals that the typical basic working week for manual staff
is 38 hours, compared with 37 hours for non-manual groups.
Many organisations are using flexible working practices to meet customer
and/or staff needs. The most common arrangement is flexi-time, which is used by
37 per cent of employers, followed by variable hours.
Just under half of all respondents have at least some staff whose basic
weekly hours include work carried out during evenings, nights, early mornings,
weekends and/or bank holidays.
Nearly two-thirds of public sector organisations require staff to work at
non-standard times, reflecting the need for 24-hour cover in public services
such as the police and health services.
By Ben Willmott