EEF, the manufacturing employers body, has written to Alan Johnson, secretary of state for trade and industry, warning the government to be wary of any clauses about flexible working that may be inserted into the Working Time Directive (WTD) by the European Commission.
The EU Employment Council will meet tomorrow (8 June) to discuss the opt-out to the WTD, which presently allows UK staff to work longer than the regulation 48-hour week if they want.
The European Parliament has already voted to scrap it, but the British government has said it will not bow to pressure from Europe.
In the letter the EEF said one area the European Commission might seek to reflect the European Parliament’s views is by including the right for employees to request changes to hours and patterns of work.
“We would urge you to be extremely cautious in going along with such a change, particularly if the commission’s proposal reflects the wording in the European Parliament’s amendment that ‘employers may refuse such a request only if the organisational disadvantages for the employer are disproportionate to the benefit to the worker’,” the EEF wrote.
“It would require employers to produce some objective justification for refusing requests for flexible working which is a much tougher test than UK legislation currently requires.
“Moreover, we are concerned that, if the right to request flexible working is included in the revised text of the directive, it opens the door for the commission, at some stage in the future, to return to this issue and seek to introduce further European legislation on this subject,” the EEF said.