Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Working Time Directive or Children up Chimneys

The Working Time Directive (or The Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2003 and The Working Time Regulations 1998 to give the correct names to the UK legislation) seems to incur the wrath of certain posh boys who claim that they inhibit us from being competitive and should be abolished as a nasty piece of Euro-legislation.

Laws preventing slavery or putting children up chimneys also reduces our competitiveness – particularly if we wish to compete with China where working conditions have been compared to Slavery (ref: BBC News Website 14 December 2010) and audits frequently turn up child labour (ref: Daily Telegraph 25 January 2013).

Where should we draw the line in a Global World?

I would have though the following might be reasonable:

  • Restrict the working week to the equivalent of six eight-hour days – but give the employer flexibility so that shift patterns can be managed – say 48 hours per week averaged over say 17 weeks.
  • A period of rest every day, say 11 hours between one shift and the next.
  • A day off each week, say 24 hours uninterrupted rest.
  • A short rest period during the working day if your shift is more than say 6 hours long.

Are we really going to argue with this as a minimum? Apparently; the working time regulations lay down working hours roughly equivalent to the above, but then allows a huge number of “relaxations” and exceptions which favour the employer.  (The one exemption that the employee can claim is to be excused from the restriction of only being able to work 48 hours per week (on average over 17 weeks) so that they can work more.)

If the posh boys want to get rid of the Working Time Regulations what protection do they propose to give us (the plebs) from being exploited in a competitive worst-of-chinese manner?  Presumably worse than the “restrictions” listed above.

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