Will The Government Scrap The Working Time Regulations?

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09 Jan 2018

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Concerns have been raised that the Government may look to leave the European Working Time Directive following Brexit. The concern is that workers in the UK could lose their right to restricted hours of work, regular rest breaks, holiday and health and safety protection. But how likely is this and should employees be concerned?

Scrapping The Regulations Contrary to Gig Economy Debate

I have always considered that the Working Time Regulations are consistent with promoting a healthy working culture, to enshrine the rights for annual leave, rest time and working hours. The basis of the support for the Working Time Regulations to be repealed seems to be taking back control over how we work as a nation and to promote an “overtime boom”. However, there is already an option to ‘opt-out’ of the 48-hour week and overtime is generally unpaid for those workers who are salaried. I consider it remains important to protect workers from potential exploitation from some unscrupulous employers, which these Regulations go some way to do. Further, it appears contrary to the recent and widespread criticism of individuals being engaged in the ‘gig economy’, whereby the focus of this criticism centred on these individuals having no employment rights. Taking away the Working Time Regulations would effectively be taking away a significant number of employment rights for all workers.

The 1998 Working Time Regulations

Under the directive, implemented into UK law under the 1998 Working Time Regulations, UK working hours are limited to an average of 48 hours a week, with 11 consecutive hours of rest in any 24-hour period. Workers are currently entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave per year under the regulations, which have governed employment contracts and formed the backbone of employee relations ever since they were enacted. Abandoning the legislation would see workers forfeit the legal right to paid holiday and maximum working hours. If you need any advice or guidance about ensuring your business is compliant with the current legislation, our experts can help. Contact us on 0808 145 3490.

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