November 13, 2013
The UK’s opt-out of the maximum 48 hour working week being proposed by the EU is yet again under the microscope. This follows the recent publication by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) of a report which highlights the frustration felt by UK businesses regarding the Working Time Directive. “Our Global Future: The Business Vision for a Reformed EU”; focuses specifically on the continuing concerns for UK businesses around the extensive level of involvement EU legislation has on how they operate their business. It shows that the majority of businesses still favour the opt-out and the flexibility it provides. Interestingly however, many did not see the need to change the current entitlement to paid holidays or rest breaks.
The Working Time Directive was implemented into UK law by the Working Time Regulations 1998. The Directive grants workers a number of rights including a minimum of paid holidays each year, an entitlement to rest breaks, a maximum working week of 48 hours, and places restrictions on hours worked at night.
The UK Government insisted in having the right to opt out of the maximum working week when it became part of UK law. Therefore employees are currently able to opt out of the 48 hour working week though a written agreement with their employer. It has become relatively common practice for UK employers to seek this agreement from their staff at the start of the employment relationship. However the UK continues to come under pressure from the other EU members to give up their opt out.
The CBI report reaffirms the views of the UK Government that this opt out has to remain. With trade unions and other employment organisations saying little on the subject as well, it may be the case that it’s only the European Members without the opt-out who have an issue with the UK retaining it.
Founder of Loch Associates, Pam Loch is a dual qualified lawyer acting for employers and employees and advising on all aspects of employment law. She is Managing Partner of niche employment law practice, Loch Associates Employment Lawyers and Managing Director of HR Advise Me Limited.