The Evening Standard reports the Tories are negotiating changes to the Lisbon Treaty in exchange for removal of UK’s duty to Working Time Directives. This is terrible.
The Working Time Directive is one of the best things the EU has done for the UK, enshrining the rights of employees not to be worked into the ground. The 48 hour working week is an extreme addition to most people’s 37.5 hours; an additional 10 hours is more than enough for anyone.
A removal of such protection means the UK would be in effect removing the rights to
- A full night’s sleep
- work life balance
- less stress
- more free time
As we’re all fully aware, these things are integral to functioning in a healthy and productive way.
The TUC report that 4 million people currently opt out of the Working Times Directives, which is higher than those apparently working in excess of 48 hours before the introduction of regulations.
With 24.7 million people in the UK in employment (excluding self employed people), that is 16% who are risking their health and, arguably, the health of other people by exceeding the 48 hour week.
The majority of people I know who opt out of the working time directives work in emergency services, health care or catering. All are environments where you would prefer someone to be alert, healthy and conscious of their duty to other people. There is a severe risk of issues arising if your doctor, nurse, fireman or policeman are overtired.
Further to this, all the time an organisation can get one person to work excessive hours is all the time they are not looking for subsequent employees. If a nurse works a 60 hour week, they only need one nurse, where as, if the organisation wants a nurse to be awake, healthy and safe, they would employ too. Not only is the Working Time Directive preserving jobs, it is also preserving an employer’s duty towards his staff.
Alongside the Adrian Beecroft report on the apparent bureaucracy of employment law, this proposal is terrible. Increasing the hours people work is not going to stimulate the economy, get growth going or get people in to work. It will do the opposite.