Britainfaces battle over 48-hour week

03 June 2004
Britainfaces battle over 48-hour week

Britain's unique opt-out of the 48-hour working week is under threat as a new report proposes that all European countries comply with the working week limit.

The European Commission's latest update on the Working Time Directive laid out four options for the future of the opt-out, including a total phase-out, or retention but with stricter conditions to prevent abuse.

"Retention of the opt-out is the only acceptable outcome of this new directive," said Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA). "The consequences of a ban would be a real problem for the industry."

According to the BHA, the hospitality industry currently relies on 200,000 employees working more than 48 hours a week and still requires workers for 100,000 more jobs.

The commission's proposals will now be negotiated by the European Trade Union Confederation, which is against the opt-out, and the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederation of Europe, which wants to retain it. Failing a resolution, the commission will draft a directive based on its own conclusions in September.

UK hospitality bosses are working more than 70 hours a week to keep their businesses going, according to a recent report for insurance company PremierLine. In a poll of more than 1,400 small businesses across the country, it found that 46% of publicans are working over 70 hours a week, as are 43% of hoteliers and 15% of restaurateurs.

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