Long Working Hours

This is rather something to celebrate, don\’t you think?

Under the European working time directive, workers are legally not obliged to work more than 48 hours, though under a special opt-out granted to the UK British employees are allowed to work longer if they explicitly agree.

So alone amongst the European Union nations the workers in the UK can work the hours they wish to. Not the hours that others think they ought to wish to, but the hours that they themselves actually do.

The latest figures reverse that trend for the first time under the Labour government, with 93,000 more people now working more than 48 hours a week compared with 2006, taking the total to almost three and a quarter million (3,242,000). The increase represents a rise from 12.8% to 13.1% of the workforce.

And it appears that some 13% of the workforce have different ideas about the hours they wish to work than the panjandrums think they ought to.

As ever, we need to distinguish between what people think others should do and what people actually do if left to make the decision for themselves. While the different EU countries are indeed different it would seem, from the UK example at least, that a possible 13% of the EU population (or workforce rather) are being denied, by law, the opportunity to balance work and family life as they would wish.

The solution to this is quite clear. We should lift the 48 hour limit on the working week for all Europeans, for as we are indeed all EU citizens now, it is only right that all of the others enjoy the same freedoms that the British do.

10 thoughts on “Long Working Hours”

  1. You do recognise of course the possible difference between wishing to work more than 48 hours a week and having to/being forced t0 work more than 48 hours a week.

    It is also worth making the point that in order to break the Working Time Directive, you’d have to have worked more than 48 hours a week for 17 consecutive weeks. So working the odd long week doesn’t mean you fall foul of the Directive. I haven’t looked at the course statistics, but I do wonder whether all those people (the 13% you refer to) who work more than 48 hours a week, actually do so, week-in, week-out, in such a way as to breach the Directive.

  2. As Katherine says, it is entirely likely that people are pressured into working long hours. If you have a choice between working 60 hours per week and not working at all, you might *have* to choose the former. I have certainly had it made clear to me at a couple of temp agencies that if I didn’t sign to indicate 48hr+ consent, that they simply wouldn’t put me forward for any jobs.

  3. Tim,

    Lete me speak with the benefit of something I don’t think you have as far as this is concerned. It’s called ‘experience’.

    When I was part of our marvellously flexible labour market, I can recall signing at least one employment contract which contained an opt-out from the Working Time Directive; in other words, if you didn’t opt-out, you didn’t get the job.

    There was absolutely nothing ‘voluntary’ about opting-out – most workers dodn’t get the chance to opt-out; their employers insist they do it.

    This is not ’employment’, Tim; this is slavery.

    No doubt some market fundamentalist troll will come along all goggle-eyed and mouthfart that this practice is ‘a good thing’; when it’s actually a load of shite.

  4. Martin – Love the high and even-handed quality of your debate here, where anyone who may have a different way of looking at this is is branded a ‘troll’ whose opinion is ‘a load of shite’ – in advance.

    FWIW, I also have some ‘experience’ in the market for labour. And I simply don’t grasp what your complaint is here. Someone offers you a job where the working hours are not to your liking. Why is this an issue that should concern anyone but you and the prosepective employer – let alone the State?

    If you don’t want to work 48+ hours, or 40+ hours, or any hours at all, that’s just fine with me. Don’t take the job that’s offered. But there are plenty of people who are eager to work that sort of job – because it often means a higher income and/or greater opportunities for advancement. And who the devil are you – or anyone – to try and restrict the opportunity of someone else to do, what you are not willing to do, and (even worse) to try and get your preferences applied to everyone with the force of law?

    Your comparison between a job that entails more hours of work than you care to do and ‘slavery’ is both insulting and facile.



  5. llamas,

    Lefties normally survive by extortion. They don’t realise that if a wage is more expensive than the profits employing someone in a job brings in, then it won’t be created by an employer.

    you’d think even people as stupid as socialists could see the link between barriers to employment and unemployment.

  6. Let’s not re-define slavery

    Hope this opt-out stays, I have enjoyed working a few long weeks to earn a bit more in the past

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