Chances that an agreement will be reached on the revision of the Working Time Directive seem increasingly slim after a social dialogue failed, on 14 December 2012. The European Commission is still pondering various possible options and the general opinion is that it is likely to publish a new proposal in the months to come. "I am not very optimistic about the future of the dossier, the risk being that it will continue going round in circles, or else that it will only lead to something very minimalistic," said Ramon Pena-Casas, a researcher at the European Social Observatory (OSE).

Directive 2003/88/EC lays down minimum requirements for the organisation of working time in respect of periods of daily rest, breaks, weekly rest, maximum weekly working time, annual leave and aspects of night work, shift work and patterns of work. But it poses a series of technical and legal problems, and few member states manage to apply it entirely. Because of this, in 2004, the Commission proposed clarifying the notion of on-call time in certain sectors of activity, planning more flexibility in the calculation of weekly working time and re-examining the opt-out clause relative to the 48 hour per week limit.


In light of the unsuccessful negotiations between Parliament and Council in 2009, the social partners decided to take on the dossier in December 2011. Having failed to reach an agreement, they in turn stopped discussions on 14 December 2012. The trade union and business representatives clashed essentially on the issue of on-call time (periods when the worker is required to be available to the employer at the workplace in order to provide his or her services in case of need). Under established case law (SiMAP and Jaeger rulings), on-call services carried out at the workplace should be considered - in their entirety - as working time. This principle applies both to periods of time during which the worker carries out work in response to a demand ( active on-call' period) and to the periods during which he is allowed to rest while he waits to be called upon ( inactive' periods of on-call time), as long as he does not leave his...

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