10/21/2004

Revision of Working Time Directive

The European Commission has, after extensive consultation across Europe,
adopted a proposal to update key aspects of the working time directive. It is a
balanced package of inter-related measures which retains the principal
objective - health & safety of workers - while responding to the needs of the
modern European economy. The individual opt-out from the 48 hour week would
remain possible, but be subject to stricter conditions to prevent abuse. Member
States would be given the possibility to extend the reference period for
calculating the 48-hour maximum working week from 4 months to a year. Time
spent on call that is not worked would not be counted as working time, with
compensatory rest granted within 72 hours.

Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "This proposal
will address shortcomings in the present system, demonstrated in the course of
its application. It is a balanced package of measures that protect the health
and safety of workers whilst introducing greater flexibility and preserving
competitiveness."

The proposal says that Member States can put into place measures at national
level to apply the individual opt-out to the 48 hour limit. The conditions that
must be respected in the case of an agreement between the employer & the
individual have been made more explicit. For example, the employer will not be
able to obtain this consent at the time of signing the employment contract, and
the employee will be free to withdraw his consent at any moment. The individual
opt-out will be done by collective agreement or by agreements between the two
sides of industry within a sector or workplace. An individual can agree to opt
out with his employer directly when, under national legislation or practice,
collective bargaining cannot be used to negotiate agreements on working time.
This is in particular the case where no collective agreement is in force and
there is no staff representation at company level that is empowered to conclude
such an agreement.

In a related move, Member States will be given the possibility to extend the
standard reference period for calculating the average working week of 48 hours
from 4 months to up to 1 year, provided they consult the two sides of industry.
This will allow companies greater flexibility and adaptability for the demands
of their business.

Under today's proposal a new category of on-call time is created, the
"inactive" part of on-call time. This is the time the worker, although
available for work at his place of employment, does not carry out his duties.
This will not be counted as working time, unless otherwise stipulated by
national law or collective agreement.

The proposal also specifies that compensatory rest would not have to be granted
immediately, but within 72 hours.

The proposal is being made by the Commission after a two-stage consultation
process, as required by the Treaty, which culminated in the European level
representatives of employers and workers indicating that they were unable to
enter into negotiations on this issue. The proposal will now be sent to the
Council & Parliament for agreement.

Further Information


AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work