By Mike Huss, senior employment law specialist, Peninsula
Q What are the Working Time Regulations?
A The Working Time Regulations were introduced in 1998 to implement the European Working Time Directive. They make provisions governing various aspects of working hours and holidays, including limiting the number of hours per week that a worker can be forced to work. They provide statutory minimum entitlements to paid annual leave, daily and weekly rest periods and rest breaks. Since their introduction, the regulations have resulted in confusion over who is covered by them. At one time, the Department of Trade and Industry believed non-mobile workers in the transport sector were covered, and that mobile workers in other sectors were exempt. Both views were subsequently shown to be incorrect.
Q What developments are planned regarding this area of the law?
A This August, the Working Time Regulations 1998 will be amended to implement the provisions of a later European directive, known as the Horizontal Amending Directive. Once amended, the regulations will cover all non-mobile workers in the road, sea, inland waterway and sea fishing sectors. The regulations will also apply to all workers in the railway and offshore sectors and to some in the aviation sector. Some provisions will also cover mobile workers in the road transport sector.
The Merchant Shipping Act has already been amended and new regulations introduced to implement the Seafarers' Directive. Further sector specific regulations will be implemented in August relating to mobile workers in the inland waterway and sea fishing sectors. Other legislation will be introduced in December to govern the working time of mobile personnel in the civil aviation sector, and to implement the Road Transport Directive by March 2005. The provisions contained in these sector-specific regulations are different to those in the 1998 Regulations.
Q My company is in the road transport sector. How will the planned changes affect us?
A The biggest impact for most companies operating in the road transport sector is likely to be holidays. All workers in this sector will be entitled to a minimum of four weeks paid leave per year, with effect from August. This will result in a direct increase in costs for companies that currently offer less than four weeks holiday. They could also face new administrative