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Bosses resentful of new ‘working time’ law

According to a survey by Croner, a business information and advice provider, 81% of businesses think that limiting the amount of hours employess work could mean companies risk losing their competitive edge.

Respondents to the survey, which was collated via Croner's www.tradeinternational-centre.net web-centre, said that removing the right to opt out of legislation which will restrict the average working week to a 48 hour maximum would have a negative affect on the UK economy.

Croner has stated that theses findings challenge whether the UK should fully adopt the EU's working time directive, from which the British government secured an opt-out in 1993 - a move which enables employers to allow staff to work more than 48 hours per week if they choose to sign an opt-out agreement.

Although the working time directive is intended to help employees achieve work/life balance through capping the number of hours they can legally work, Croner is alerting employers that it could actually do the opposite by imposing a more rigid structure whereby employees can no longer choose to work reasonable overtime.

The European Commission is currently reviewing a phase-out of Britain's exemption to the Regulations and Kimbra Green, employment law expert at Croner, which is part of Wolters Kluwer UK, believes if the opt-out is lost it could have major implications for many industries.

Green says: "The survey results are not a sign that our employers are becoming slave-drivers, but rather a protest by bosses for freedom of choice when it comes to working hours.

There will always be employers who exploit the system, but it's clear that a blanket ceiling on working hours will have the majority up in arms."

Some industry sectors have started to move towards ensuring that employees comply with the maximum average weekly limit on hours, but Green believes that some form of opt-out for the UK must be retained.

"Many employees welcome the option to work reasonable overtime and if the flexibility to do this were removed, many lower paid employees may be forced to consider taking on additional, separate employment, without telling their employer, which could impact on their quality of life, productivity and pose serious health and safety problems," says Green.

Over the past two years the Office of National Statistics has reported a half-hour reduction in the average working week to 32 hours.

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