Working Time Directive

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The European Union adopted a directive on the organization of working time in 1993, which establishes protective standards for employees in the areas of: daily and weekly rest periods, maximum weekly hours, shift work, annual holidays, and night work. The main substantive provisions are for: 11 hours' rest per day; 35 hours' rest at the weekend; a daily rest break if working time extends beyond 6 hours; a maximum of 8 hours per shift on night work, averaged over two weeks; a 48-hour working week; four weeks' paid holiday; and a general provision that working time be adapted to the needs of the worker. The directive was introduced as part of the Social Charter Action Programme and was adopted under qualified majority voting by the Council of Ministers as a health and safety measure. The directive was initially opposed by the UK Conservative government on the grounds that working time was not a health and safety issue, but, following the rejection of its case by the European Court of Justice, the UK has been required to accept the measure. The Working Time Regulations that give effect to the directive were issued by the UK Labour government in 1998. In 2000, the European Union adopted a second Working Time Directive, which extended the application of the earlier directive to occupations and industrial sectors that previously had been excluded from coverage. As a consequence, the EU working time regime has been extended to junior and trainee hospital doctors, road transport workers, crew members on board civil aircraft, and workers in the armed forces and emergency services. [See working time opt-out.]

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

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