Working Hours

In print, employees are far more likely to complain that there is not enough overtime than that they are getting too much.  Many companies, though, are not compliant with legislation.
When the European Working Time Directive (which restricts working time to a maximum of 48 hours per week averaged over a 17 week period) was translated into U.K. law (The Working Time Regulations 1998), our government negotiated an opt out whereby employees could choose to
voluntarily opt out of this limit and work more hours.
Even companies with opt-outs in place can have issues when inspected in business continuity or social accountability assessments; the assessor may not consider it “voluntary”:
- if the opt-out is a standard clause in a contract, or is a separate document signed at the same time as the employee starts work;
- if there is no clear mechanism for employees to change their minds and opt back into the limit; or
- if production employees always work five 12 hour shifts a week.
Best practice is for employees to be given the option to opt out only after they have completed their probationary period.
For the opt-out to be separate document that clearly states that they do not have to opt-out.
That this document states that they can opt back in at any time after giving reasonable notice (maximum 3 months).
NB it is the company’s responsibility under The Working Time Regulations to keep records to demonstrate compliance with the legislation for a period of at least three years, though in theory an employee could bring a claim against a company that they had been
allowed to work excessive hours up to seven years after the event.

Thanks to Simon Edkins for this article.

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