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Agreement reached on working time directive

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European member states have reached an agreement that will allow UK workers to continue to work more than 48 hours per week, subject to certain conditions.

“The standard maximum limit remains at 48 working hours per week, unless an individual worker chooses otherwise (opt-out),” explained Marion Rich, BCSA Director of Legal and Contractual Affairs.

New protections are introduced, including on call time to be split between active and inactive call time, with active call time counted as working time; a maximum limit of 60 or 65 hours depending on circumstances.

The opt out will be allowed only under certain conditions, such as: no signature during the first month of employment; no victimisation for not signing or withdrawing opt-out; employers keeping records on working hours of opted-out workers.

Agreement has also been reached on the Temporary Agency Workers Directive. This includes giving temporary agency workers equal treatment with regular workers as of day one in terms of pay, maternity leave and equal access to collective facilities (canteen, child care facilities, transport service).

“Derogation through collective agreements and through agreements between social partners at a national level will be allowed,” added Mrs Rich.

The agreements still have to be approved by the European Parliament, with legislation expected to be introduced in 2009.

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