Long-hours consultation launched by employment relations minister

relations minister Gerry Sutcliffe has launched a consultation into long-hours
working and the way the individual opt-out from the 48-hour working time limit
operates in the UK.

said the Government was committed to retaining the opt-out to protect employee
choice and workplace flexibility, but was also determined to make sure it was
being used correctly.

from the consultation will help inform the Government’s policy on long-hours
working and its position on proposals expected soon from the European
Commission on amending the Working Time Directive (WTD), he said.

warned: “Some parties have raised concerns that people are being pressured into
signing the opt-out. Such action is illegal, as the opt-out must be signed
voluntarily under current employment legislation.”

plc and the trade unions have long been at loggerheads over the WTD, with
business arguing it is necessary to retain the UK’s competitive edge and the
unions saying it exposes British staff to longer working hours than anywhere
else in Europe.

consultation covers three main areas:

ensuring workers have a real choice about long hours

protecting staff who do work long hours

making sure people know about their rights.

closing date for the consultation is 22 September 2004.

By Michael Millar

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