Time called in hours row

Pub chain Bass has conceded that its bar managers should be covered by the
Working Time directive following a drawn-out union battle.

Bass Leisure Retail, which owns more than 3,000 pubs, had previously argued
that its managers were "autonomous decision makers" which would make
them exempt from the directive.

The climbdown was welcomed by the National Association of Licensed House
Managers, which said it was surprised by the company’s change of heart.

The NALHM has argued since the directive became law in October 1998 that pub
managers should be covered because their autonomy in decision making is
limited.

But because Bass and the union have reached an agreement no legal precedent
has been set.

Chris Mordue, associate solicitor at legal firm Pinsent Curtis, said Bass
had made a pragmatic decision because the scope of the exemption was unclear.
He added that a ruling from the European Court of Justice or the Employment
Appeal Tribunal will be needed to clarify the situation.

NALHM spokesman Peter Love said test cases against Whitbread, Scottish and
Newcastle and Wolverhampton and Dudley were still on track but it is waiting to
see their reaction to the Bass move before proceeding.

Bass spokeswoman Janice Clark said amendments to the regulations in December
which "clarified" the exemption category had influenced its decision.

Bass has let all managers know and is talking to them individually to
discuss the situation.

"They have the opportunity to opt out if they want to, it is a personal
choice. Some won’t want the hassle of keeping hours records if they stay
in," she said.

By Dominique Hammond

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