The EU Working Time Directive was instituted to standardize working conditions across the European Union – it specifies maximum working hours, compulsory rest periods and time off standards. There is an opt-out option which allows employees to agree to working longer hours, an option taken by 2 million British workers.
Small and Medium Businesses (SMEs) have been impacted with additional overhead in the form of requisite forms and documentation to prove compliance, and a lack of flexibility as the directive has been enforced.
There have been a number of attempts to remove or amend the opt-out option, this has been vigorously opposed by SME’s stating it would force them to become uncompetitive as they compete with the large conglomerates and the self employed person, who is exempt from the directive.
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This has also led to uncertainty for small business owners and statistics show that the increased regulation could result in some small businesses being forced to close if no opt-out was available in the future.
The unions have an opposite view, stating that employees are being exploited and they want the opt-out to be abolished, this has been tried on 3 occasions by the EU but to date these attempts have failed.
There are statistics to show that a high number of employees are working 20% additional time as unpaid overtime, a situation that does not benefit the employees in any way. Employees in some industries feel their freedom of choice has been limited and they want the freedom to work longer hours and reap greater financial remuneration as a result of their inputs.
The overall effect to both employees and employers in SMEs is that the employers have a higher administrative and cost overhead in complying with the directive and employees do not feel they have additional benefits and free will to work on terms and conditions that suit their financial and personal requirements. The British government agrees that the increase in regulations places a heavy burden on the small to medium enterprise.
The dissertation will investigate the effect of the European Union Working Time Directive and its effects on UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs). ‘The EU Working Time Directive guarantees workers
• A maximum of 48 hours work per week
• At least four weeks’ paid annual leave
• A minimum period of 11 hours’ rest every 24 hours
• At least one day’s rest per week
• A rest break if the working day is longer than six hours’.
Ref The Morning Advertiser, https://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/news_detail.aspx?articleid=23797
The directive was legislated in 1993 and brought into effect in the UK in Oct 1998. Like all European Union directives, this is an instrument which requires member states to enact its provisions in national legislation.
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