Working Time Directive

Working Time Directive in Europe

Description of Working Time Directive

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes working time directive in the following terms: [1] Adopted by qualified majority voting in 1993, the Working Time Directive was a Commission social measure (to reduce unemployment by cutting working hours) masquerading as a health and safety measure – the difference being that health and safety rules are of universal EU application, whereas social rules are governed by the Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty, from which the UK had at the time an opt-out. The UK’s appeal against the circumvention of its opt-out was overruled by the European Court in 1996, although Britain’s industrial safety record is good and its submission that no genuine medical issues were at stake was not seriously challenged.

The Directive imposes a maximum 48-hour working week together with minimum periods of daily and weekly rest, holidays and breaks. Many suspected the Commission not just of flat earth economics (unemployment in the USA is lower than in the EU, although US working hours are longer) but also of an unspoken agenda – that of preventing British companies from retaining a competitive edge through flexible employment practices. The wider significance of the Directive was that it showed that the Commission, with the aid of the Court, was more concerned with harmonisation than with global competition or respect for the intent of a Treaty-based exemption. (See also ‘Social dumping’.)

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Notas y References

  1. Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)

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