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Views sought on review of the EC Working Time Directive

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Employers and other interested parties can submit their views on the operation of the European Union’s Working Time Directive as part of a new European Commission review.


The consultation is the preparatory stage of a wider EC review designed to identify any possible changes to the current directive that might be necessary to “best meet the needs of workers, businesses, public services and consumers across the EU”.

The directive, which was adopted over 20 years ago, aims to set minimum common standards to protect EU workers from health and safety risks associated with working excessive or inappropriate working hours, or from inadequate rest or recovery time from work. Its provisions include entitlements for all workers to a weekly working time limit of 48 hours on average; a daily minimum rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24; and paid annual leave, of at least four weeks per year.

The directive allows some derogations from certain rules, and the UK, for instance, allows employees to opt to work longer than the maximum 48-hour average working week.

The consultation, which runs until 15 March, states: “Over the last 20 years, fundamental changes have occurred in the world of work and the economy, which have had a clear impact on many aspects of the organisation of working time.

“In the light of these developments, it is necessary to reflect on the kind of working time legislation the EU needs in order to cope with the current and future challenges of the first part of 21st century – social, economic, technological and demographic.”

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