The decision by the Council of Ministers on 2 June to extend the UK’s exemption from the EU working time directive is good news for the large majority of workers who choose to work long hours, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
Enough European employment ministers opposed the plan to prevent a vote taking place at the council meeting. The issue now returns to the parliament and the question is likely to drag on for months.
The European Parliament and a number of EU member states want all nations to uphold a working week of no longer than 48 hours.
But the UK and other countries want employees to be able to work additional hours if they volunteer to do so.
Its research shows that the vast majority of long hours' workers are not forced to work longer than 48 hours a week. It also counters the claim that employees are forced into signing the opt-out clause at the same time as signing their employment contracts.
Ben Willmott, employee relations adviser, said the small minority of cases of employer abuse should be tackled through better enforcement and raising awareness of existing regulations, while the health risks should be addressed by educating managers and employees of the need to focus more on work outputs than hours worked.
“We believe, instead that the government should continue to encourage and extend flexible working arrangements, an area where the UK leads the rest of Europe.”
The recent Calling Time on Working Time? report, a survey of 750 workers who work more than 48 hours, showed that:
More than three-quarters of long hours' workers say that they do so as a result of their own choice
Fewer than a third of employees sign an opt-out clause at the same time as signing their employment contracts
10% of employees report that long hours' working causes damaging physical effects, while 17% cite mental health problems.