Feeds

UK will save its 48-hour opt-out, says employment lawyer

Haven't you got homes to go to?

Security for virtualized datacentres

The European Parliament has voted to end the UK's opt-out of laws banning people from working for more than 48 hours a week, but a leading employment lawyer has said that the opt-out is likely to remain in place.

"My message to businesses is: don't panic," said Tom Flanagan, an employment law expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. "This was an opinion of the European Parliament. It is not a decision of the Council of Ministers, so it's not yet a removal of the UK's opt-out."

The European Union's Working Time Directive says that employers cannot ask people to work for more than 48 hours a week, but the UK won the right to opt out of that provision. EU authorities have been discussing whether or not to extend the 15-year exemption.

The UK Government is keen to retain the opt-out, believing that it suits the UK's work culture, which generally involves longer hours than that in other EU member states.

Though the Parliament's vote is a blow to the Government's desire to keep the opt-out in place, Flanagan said that it is not the final word on the issue.

"The Council of Ministers will have to knock out a deal early in the New Year and while we may lose the opt-out, I don't think that our European partners would do that to us," said Flanagan. "The Czech Republic is taking over the presidency and they are Eurosceptic so are not likely to follow this kind of line."

The EU's 27 member states have until May to agree a deal through the Council of Ministers, but if they fail to do so the new agreement will fail and the status quo, including the opt-out, will remain in place.

The Government believes that the opt-out makes the UK economy more productive. Think tank Open Europe has said that ending the opt-out would cost the UK £57bn between now and 2020, more than £2,300 per household.

Business lobby group the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) condemned the vote. "This vote is misguided. Trying to ban people from choosing to work more than 48 hours a week is a mistake, and would replace opportunity with obstruction," said CBI deputy director general John Cridland.

“Many people want to work longer hours, in professions ranging from manufacturing to medical research," he said. "They do so to further their careers or earn extra money, or to help their firm through difficulties. They should be able to do so if they choose."

Flanagan, though, said that he believes that workers will still be able to choose to work longer hours even if the opt-out is lost.

"It would become unlawful to put a clause into a contract which makes a person opt out of this," he said. "But if someone wanted to work longer, they could. They just couldn't be required to."

Flanagan also said that the working week is measured over such a long period that very few jobs would actually currently count as lasting longer than 48 hours in a week.

"The measurement is over a 17-week period. People are talking as if this affects many people, but there are not that many jobs where you do those hours over such a long period," he said.

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.