PositionWorking hours

The prospects for the EU's latest venture into regulating the world of work aren't looking too good. The draft update to the rules on working time pleases almost nobody.

The European business community has come out strongly against the proposal, on the grounds that it will impose excessive constraints.

Trade unionists - and many Members of the European Parliament - say it doesn't go far enough.

The aim of imposing more tightly a maximum 48-hour week is undercut by so many opt-outs that it is unlikely to lead to much harmonisation.

And the chances are the opt-outs will be increased rather than decreased if the proposal is to advance towards the statute books.

The UK is firmly against tighter controls, and the Czech Republic this week signalled that it is likely to take the same view. Germany and Poland are also sounding deeply cautious over the plan.

In addition, since the new rules would relate only to workplaces where the labour force is unionised, they will in any case impact on only a part of Europe's workforce.

The draft Directive has all the hall-marks of unsuccessful legislation springing from yet another failure to reach a European consensus. The polarised views of the social partners are reflected...

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