European Community Law: Working Time Directive

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For European citizens in the Union, it is important that work hours are directed and supervised for health and safety. When individuals work over so many hours a week, not only efficiency drops, but the safety and health often declines rapidly the more hours are completed, and these concerns are addressed by the European Community Laws.

There are certain rights provided to those within the European Union such as a limited weekly hour period that must not exceed 48 average hours worked to include overtime for any employment week. For each 24 hour time spent in the office or similar locations, the citizen is entitled to eleven consecutive rest hours each day. When at least six hours have passed, the individual is provided a break or rest time. In addition to the eleven rest hours, the person must be provided with no less than 24 uninterrupted hours for every period of seven days. Every year should allocate a four week timeframe of paid leave.

Other entitlements include night work protections in excess of those for daytime workers. For a 24 hour period, the average employee must not exceed eight hours working. When someone is working at night, he or she is not permitted to perform heavy or work that may risk health for more than eight hours in the 24-hour period at the business. For health and safety, night employees are entitled to free health assessments and screenings and the ability to transfer to daytime hours. Other professions have special rules attached to the employment. This may involve certain stipulations based on offshore work, sea fishing, physicians and similar persons.

Other Directives

Through assessments of various employments, directives are being reviewed for further changes necessary. Changes were requested by both workers and the employers in 2010 that prompted a more extensive analysis of these laws and regulations. While the businesses affected wanted more flexibility, the unions working on behalf of employees requested more effective protections for these persons. After the information was examined and exchanged, negotiations started in 2011 for the Treaty on Functioning of the European Union. Without an agreement reached between the two parties, the Commissions needed to make the final decisions. All possible options and effects with social and economic aspects considered were taken by the Commission.

The main Directive was amended through proposals from 2004-2009. This prompted the Directives of Working Time with the EU Community laws. Several studies were initiated to understand these matters better after the changes prompted by employees and the employers of various businesses. Through understanding the impact fully, the Working Time Directive was put into place for the betterment of work duties and the rest that these persons need after a long workday. When injury occurs with greater frequency with longer hours, the authorities reviewed the cases and made the appropriate changes. Implementing the new Directive rules took time throughout the countries.

Implications for Workers

With the Working Time Directive in place to ensure employees are provided ample time to rest after so many hours in a day, this ensures that job duties are carried out with greater efficiency and a higher sense of safety for both the employee and the workers involved. Through the careful study into the social, economic and health related factors of work time and the individual, many studies and research has found a correlation between accidents and more hours worked in a single day or week. With rest hours mandatory by both company and employee, the safety is increased and health conditions of the individual are safeguarded against potential and repeat injuries.

When the Directive has been implemented for so long, the years provide a clearer picture between the possibility of deteriorating health and safety concerns being ignored in the workplace. After hard work has been completed, the employee is given the time to truly rest or take care of families. This is both for a single day and for the entire week. Through these rules, it is also possible to increase efficiency and productivity within the company. Other issues are not on the minds of workers, and this may provide a more focused situation.

Legal Concerns with the Working Time Directive

While businesses are tasked with following the Working Time Directive, there are often certain owners that take advantage of loopholes or attempt to violate these rules. If the employee’s rights have been disturbed, a lawyer should be contacted for action against the employer and to potentially receive monetary damages for these offenses.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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