Have a voice in Europe over changes to working time law

first_imgHave a voice in Europe over changes to working time lawOn 26 Nov 2002 in Personnel Today HR professionals have a uniqueopportunity to influence the European Commission over the future of the UK’sWorking Time Directive opt-out by taking part in a ground-breaking survey inthis issue. Personnel Today has teamed up with the Employment LawyersAssociation, following a request from the European Commission, to conduct astudy in the UK to discover the implications of removing the opt-out provisionwhich allows staff to work longer than 48 hours per week.The results of the survey will be fed back to Brussels, givingUK employers an unprecedented opportunity to influence decision-making at theheart of Europe.The European Commission is about to start a review of thedirective and the commissioner responsible, Fernando Pereira, wants to find outwhether the removal of the opt-out, which applies to the UK only, will damagebusinesses or tackle the long-hours work culture. Employment relations minister Alan Johnson, speakingexclusively to Personnel Today, believes the UK must put up a fight to ensurethe retention of the opt-out clause in the Working Time Directive, secured in1993.”In the current climate the scrapping of the opt-out wouldbe very damaging for productivity – I am sure about that,” Johnson said.”We think the opt-out is good. We think it’s a goodbalance for individuals to have the right to work more than 48 hours, but notbe forced to do so.”Research published last week by the Economic and SocialResearch Council reveals that 40 per cent of large UK organisations currentlyask staff to sign the opt-out.Its removal would hit certain sectors more than others, withthe worst affected including construction, catering and the NHS.Elaine Way, president of the Association of Healthcare HumanResource Management, believes the removal of the opt-out would increasestaffing shortages for NHS employers. “Removal will undoubtedly presentsignificant practical difficulties for the NHS,” she said.But Alison Holt, chief personnel officer for Leeds CityCouncil, is confident local government employers would be able to cope.”It would cause some HR management problems,” she said,”however, I think we could work around them fairly easily.”By Ben Willmott / Paul NelsonKey facts on the directive– Working Time Regulations came into force in 1998 and are currently beingextended– 40 per cent of large organisations in the UK ask staff to sign the opt-out– The main sectors affected include construction, catering and the NHS– EC could scrap the opt out by the end of next yearCase study building servicesLosing opt-out would send costs spirallingBuilding services firm Lorne Stewart would suffer increasedskills shortages and higher labour costs if the European Commission removes theUK’s opt out from the Working Time Directive. Mike Taylor, group HR director at Lorne Stewart, said construction costs inthe UK – which are already among the highest in Europe – would also spiral andhave a knock-on affect on the UK’s economy. “Around 99.9 per cent of all our weekly paid people have signed theopt-out,” he said. “You could argue that we should not have anovertime culture and people in our industry should be able to have more leisuretime, but the skills shortages mean that is just not possible. “It would be an unmitigated disaster if the opt-out was removed in thenear future.” The firm employs 1,200 staff and Taylor is convinced that most of itstradesmen – who typically work between 52 and 55 hours a week – would also beunhappy to be forced to reduce their hours because their wages would suffer. “I think the European Commission should give employers the freedom tomake their own decisions and set targets to get to a 48-hour working week inthe UK over a lengthy period. I would say over a 10-year rather than afive-year period. “I am sure that in some industries the removal of the opt out will notbe so problematic, but in ours it would be a major issue.” Lorne Stewart provides plumbers, electricians and central heating engineersfor large construction projects. Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Articlelast_img read more