Employees working long hours and the Working Time Directive

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tired employees
In the last couple of months the most highlighted issue by an employee to me has been employees working longer hours because the business they work in is growing and has won more projects. These employees were not being disloyal or moaning for the sake of it, they are genuinely working longer hours than they have been.

It transpired after speaking to them and to my other HR colleagues that it may be a common thread as the economy is picking up, business is starting to boom, projects and new work is being acquired by businesses but recruitment of more resources is not happening at quite the same rate. Inevitably, existing staff are working longer hours to cope with the demands of the work.

All parties could see it was a temporary measure and recruitment programmes or outsourcing parts of the work were things all in motion. However, it was a useful reminder for all that we have to comply with the working time directive which means our existing staff are not burnt out and unable to come into work when our order books are full.

The working time directive allows:
  • a limit of an average 48 hours a week on the hours a worker can be required to work, though individuals may choose to work longer by “opting out”
  • 5.6 weeks’ paid leave a year
  • 11 consecutive hours’ rest in any 24-hour period
  • a 20-minute rest break if the working day is longer than six hours
  • one day off each week
  • a limit on the normal working hours of night workers to an average eight hours in any 24-hour period, and an entitlement for night workers to receive regular health assessments.
Employees who are aged under 18 have special regulations where their working day is restricted to 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. The rest break is 30 minutes if their work last more than four and a half hours. They are also entitled to two days off each week.

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