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29 September 2008

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Right to opt-out of the maximum 48 hours working week

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This month, the UK secured a landmark agreement at European level to retain its opt-out from the maximum 48 hour working week under the EC Working Time Directive.

The agreement, announced on 10 June 2008, enables UK employers to continue to ask their workers to agree to work longer than 48 hours per working week (averaged over a 17 week reference period).

When the Working Time Regulations were introduced in 1998, UK employers were granted a concession to be able to ask their workers to opt-out in writing of the maximum 48 hour working week.

Lisa Jinks, Associate at Greenwoods Solicitors LLP

However, this concession has constantly been under threat and was widely anticipated to be abolished completely or phased out over time. The opt-out will now be reviewed again in 8 years time.

Commenting on this latest development, Lisa Jinks, an Associate from Greenwoods' Employment and Employee Benefits team said: "The continued right to use the opt-out, will be reassuring to UK employers, allowing them flexibility to cope in busy periods. The new agreement does however contain some conditions to ensure that this flexibility is not abused - this is likely to mean that the UK government has to implement some health and safety measures giving further protection to workers."

"Note however, that opt-outs contained in contracts of employment run the, albeit small, risk of being challenged as unenforceable due to the lack of "freely given" consent by workers."

"The issue of "on-call" time has also been addressed and clarified in this latest EU agreement - this primarily affects the medical professions and key emergency services."

If you would like clarification on this issue or would like to discuss any employment issues affecting your business, please contact a member of Greenwoods Solicitors LLP's Employment and Employee Benefits Team on 01733 887700.

Peterborough UK Community Website - June 2008




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