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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Letter: UK government must not weaken labour rights

Jean’s letter about the Working Time Directive appeared in The Guardian on Tuesday, 22 November.

Once again, we see a British government willing to weaken labour rights.  The existing directive already offers considerable flexibility, with an average 48 hour a week maximum over 11 weeks; recognition of emergency situations where usual rest times may not be possible; and the opportunity to negotiate agreements to vary terms.  On-call work does present problems, but these have been resolved in many cases, so we should be learning from good practice rather than rushing to relax rules.  After all, on-call time is about who is in control of your time: if you are at your place of work and expected to be ready at any moment, it can hardly be said you are off-duty.

The UK opt-out is widely used as a matter of course – many employers have staff members who work hours of unrecognised over time and give an estimated £27.4bn of ‘free’ work a year.  Excessive hours also adversely affect productivity and are linked to an increased risk of accidents at work and high stress levels.  The Working Time Directive is a health and safety measure for good reasons.  The government would do better to look at job creation rather than pushing people to work excessive hours.

Jean Lambert MEP

Green Party