Working time EU law reform to save £1bn
Ministers are considering major reforms to the controversial EU Working Time Directive in an attempt to save businesses £1 billion a year and to take advantage of the UK’s new Brexit freedoms.
The EU-era law limits the amount of time most people have to work to 48 hours a week on average, including overtime.
The Department for Business and Trade is looking at removing the requirement on firms to record the number of hours each staff member works.
They say the change would not compromise workers’ rights and believe the reduction in red tape could save companies more than £1 billion.
A Government spokesperson said: “This Government has no intention of abandoning our strong record on workers’ rights, which are amongst the highest in the world.
“The Retained EU Law Bill will make sure that the UK’s rules and regulations best serve the interests of the country as a whole and support workers and businesses to build a thriving economy.”
Aim to remove 800 pieces of EU legislation by end of year
Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary, is currently going through more than 4,000 pieces of EU legislation which are still on the UK’s statute book despite Brexit.
She hopes to remove around 800 of them by the end of the year, and others could go in future years.
The Retained EU Law Bill is before Parliament and expected to be amended to give ministers the power to remove further EU-era legislation beyond the end of this year if it is deemed necessary.
One of the major pieces of EU law which still remains part of British legislation is the Working Time Directive.
It governs the hours employees can be asked to work. This must not exceed 48 hours on average, including any overtime.
The rule came into force in Britain in 1998.
Some employers believe the rule harms the UK’s productivity because it stops firms from paying people to take on overtime when they have a large amount of orders.
It has also been blamed for making it harder for the NHS to reduce waiting times.
Some exceptions to 48-hour work week
But employees can choose to opt out of the 48-hour week if they often work overtime in roles in the emergency services, for example.
Exceptions include if people work in jobs where 24-hour staffing is required, or if they are in the police, armed forces, security or surveillance.
Others include people working as a domestic servant in a private household, or as a seafarer, sea-fisherman or worker on vessels on inland waterways.
People are also not covered where working time is not measured and they are in control, such as managing executives with control over their decisions.
Certain staff can opt out of the 48-hour maximum working week, including airline staff, a worker on ships or boats, delivery drivers, bus conductors and security guards.
Their employers can ask staff to opt out, but they cannot be sacked or treated unfairly for refusing to do so.
Trade unions have warned that scrapping the EU Working Time Directive in its entirety could lead to more accidents at work and reduce employee wellbeing.
The regulations also enshrine in law the right to paid time off, equating to 28 days per year including bank holidays, and rest breaks, with employers mandated to provide at least a 20-minute uninterrupted break during a workday of six hours or more.
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