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Bosses fear working time opt-out removal

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Employers are keen to hang onto the Working Time Directive opt-out clause; despite embracing new work/life balance initiatives says new research.

IRS Employment Review, publishers of the research released today, surveyed 77 organisations covering more than 70,000 people to establish how UK employers organise working hours and their views on the Working Time Directive and proposed changes to remove the opt-out clause.

The survey reports that a quarter of respondents have made changes to working time in the past five years. Cutting hours and introducing work-life balance initiatives were the most popular methods used.

Traditional working patterns between blue collar workers and white collar workers are also converging, according to the report. Six out of 10 organisations surveyed had common hours for all, compared with fewer than half in 2002.

Yet while employers appear to be embracing new work-life balance initiatives, almost half of respondents admitted to having asked their staff to sign an individual opt-out from the maximum average 48-hour working week. While nearly nine out of ten would oppose the abolition of the opt-out.

When asked why they feared the removal of the opt-out clause, employers argued that it would adversely affect employees' earnings. Others feared they would have to increase the head count or might lose out on earnings if they were unable to manage customer requirements at peak times.

IRS Employment Review managing editor, Mark Crail said: "Working time can be a contentious issue. In 2003/04 alone, Acas dealt with more than 7,500 individual disputes involving working time – more than twice the number of applications in relation to race discrimination or equal pay. And there has been a heated war of words between employer and employee bodies this summer as the European Commission considers the future of the UK opt-out from the 48-hour maximum average working week.

"It is interesting to note, however, that although employers are strongly opposed to the abolition of the opt-out, they recognise that its use could be tightened up and would support moves to prevent abuses of the system."

One Response

  1. Smaller Businesses
    It would be interesting to see if there is any noticeable differences between larger and smaller organisations.

    Anecdotal evidence suggests that larger organisations are much more likely to be pro-active with work-life balance issues and that smaller businesses are much more likely to require employees to exercise the opt-out in order to secure maximum productivity.

    Is this the case ? It would be interesting to see the views of others.

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Annie Hayes

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