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The Implementation of the Working Time Directive in the UK

Aims & objectives

The project team was commissioned by DG Employment of the European Commission to carry out a study of the implementation in the UK of the so-called individual opt-out in the EU Working Time Directive. This provision - Art. 18(1)(b)(i) of the 1993 Directive - enables workers to opt out of the protection of the 48 hour weekly limit to working time, by agreement in writing with their employer. The UK has made provision, in its legislation, for a general opt out as allowed by Art. 18(1)(b)(i). A review of literature and relevant data sources was carried out in the autumn of 2002 and a report submitted to DG Employment in December 2002. 40 interviews in total were carried out with employers, professional bodies, trade unions, employers’ associations, and regulatory bodies.

Results & dissemination

The report discussed the prevalence of the opt-out, the manner in which it is administered, the reasons given by employers for making use of it, the perceptions of its use by trade unions, and the extent to which alternative devices for working over 48 hours (collective agreements, workforce agreements, other derogations) are used. The report was extensively relied by DG Employment in producing its formal review of the opt-out in January 2004.

Working papers

Barnard, C., Deakin, S. and Hobbs, R. (2004) 'Opting out of the 48-hour Week - Employer Necessity or Individual Choice? An Empirical Study of the Operation of Article 18(1)(b) of the Working Time Directive in the UK'. CBR Working Paper 282.

Journal articles

Barnard, C., Deakin, S. and Hobbs, R. (2003) ‘‘Fog in the channel, continent isolated’: Britain as a model for EU social policy?’ Industrial Relations Journal, 34: 461-476.

Barnard, C., Deakin, S. and Hobbs, R. (2003) ‘Opting out of the 48-hour week: employer necessity or individual choice? An empirical study of the operation of Article 18(1)(b) of the Working Time Directive in the UK’ Industrial Law Journal, 32: 223-252.

Other publications

Barnard, C. and Deakin, S. (2004) "There is no easy answer to long hours at work."Financial Times, 6 January 2004, pp.19

Project leaders

Catherine Barnard (Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge)
Simon Deakin
Richard Hobbs (Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge)

Project status

Completed

Funding

The European Commission Directorate General for Employment & Social Affairs