Only three employers in the UK have been brought to book for flouting
Working Time law – 16 months after it came into force.
Under the Working Time directive – introduced in October 1998 – most staff
should not work more than 48 hours a week, a rule experts say many companies
would find hard to adhere to.
But figures show the Health and Safety Executive has served improvement
notices on just three employers for failing to reduce staff hours since 1998.
Of those, two have cut the number of hours worked, while the third is being
given time to comply with the law.
A further five have been served with improvement notices over breaches of
other provisions in the directive.
Overall, since the directive came into force in the UK, the executive has
received 339 complaints. Of those, 152 have been investigated resulting in the
eight enforcement notices.
A spokesman denied the executive had insufficient staff to enforce the law.
"It takes time for a law like this to bed down. I think we have just
started up a cycle where complaints are coming in and are being dealt
He added that improvement notices were only served if an employer fails to
comply with the law after being approached by the HSE. Prosecution would only
follow if this also failed.
Of the 144 where no action was taken, he was unable to say how many
complaints had been dismissed and how many needed no further action because the
employer complied voluntarily.
• Meanwhile, a new survey has found only one in 20 employers is providing a
range of family-friendly measures.
Families and the Labour Market, compiled by the Family Policy Studies Centre,
found only 5 per cent of employers voluntarily provided all four categories of
family-friendly initiatives: maternity benefits, paternity leave, childcare
arrangements and non-standard working hours.
Centre director Ceridwen Roberts said long hours and a lack of flexible work
policies put unacceptable pressure on employees responsible for the care of
children or elderly relatives.
Euro institutions clash over Work Time law detail
A political struggle has developed between the European Parliament and the
EU Council of Ministers over plans to introduce Working Time legislation to
junior doctors, sea fishermen and non-mobile transport workers, threatening to
delay its introduction for months.
An official EU conciliation committee has been set up in an attempt to bring
together the two institutions, but if there is no agreement, long-term
stalemate is expected to result. Its first meeting will be held next week.
Officials at the council secretariat in Brussels said that MEP’s had been
pressing for strict limits on rest periods for sea fishermen, along with the
establishment of an average maximum 48 hour working week, over 12 months.
They said the council – which represents EU Member States – wanted a more
flexible formula, which referred to fishermen being given "adequate"
They added that there was discord over the implementation time for bringing
junior doctors into the ambit of the legislation, with parliament wanting four
years and the council nine. The parliament has also called for junior doctors
to work no more than an average 54 hours a week.