back to article British workaholics win EU opt out deal

The British government today secured landmark European Union agreements that will allow UK citizens to work more than 48 hours a week, and bring temp workers into line with permanent staff. The compromise deal allows Blighty to opt out from the 1993 EU law on the Working Time directive, which sets the maximum length of the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Whats wrong with this line.

    "agreements that will allow UK citizens"

    Allow? Allow? How about we tell the EU to sod off!

    they don't try to be our overlords, and we wont tell them where to stick their metrically measured heads!

    */ Mines the one with 'Death to Governments' written on the back.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    89 days 23hrs 59min 59secs

    So employers will be able to make you work 24hrs a day up until the 12 week limit then get rid for the next drone to replace you?

  3. Paul
    Thumb Down

    Mostly the truth...

    Except it should read:

    "This agreement means that businesses can cope during busy times,” said business secretary John Hutton. "Securing the right for businesses to force people to work longer without extra pay if they choose to do so is hugely valuable to the British economy.”

  4. dervheid


    Freedom to work ourselves / be worked into an early grave.

    Ye gods, it's good to be British!

  5. Greg

    Not sure about this

    Somehow I doubt this is really being fought for the workers. Ra, workers can now earn overtime. BS, we could do that before. What this does is let employers increase the length of a working day even further (unless you're a middle manager, naturally).

  6. shaun
    Thumb Up

    RE: Whats wrong with this line.

    Mines also the one with 'Death to Governments' written on the back.

  7. Frederick Karno


    Lets not kid ourselves the only people who make money are the agency's themselves who charge firms by the hour.

    They of course dont pass this on to the contract labour.

    But it does allow firms not to have pension schemes and all that that entails they can just hire and fire as they like .

    I have yet to find any European legislation that has helped me or anyone i know...criminals and terrorists have more human rights than hard working people in this country 40 hours should be the maximum anyone needs to work in this country to make a decent living and they shouldn't have to have government hand outs to do it.

    the only resaon i can see the Government fighting for this is to attract small business subscription to pay off its party debts looking after workers is far removed from new labours agenda.

  8. Andy
    Thumb Down

    And how is this a victory for the working person?

    The only people who seem to benefit are the workaholics and the CBI.

    Great work UK PLC.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    With the risk of sounding like I am quoting straight off the twat-o-tron, it is a little hard nowadays to tell the EU to sod off. This Government is little more than a district council with regard to the great EU "project", and have given away so many of the powers that we *should* have to govern this country as to make most of Whitehall obsolete. Why do you think we have measures such as the anti-image/seudo image/cgi-created image legislation? It's because only have the power to micro-manage shit like this - it's all they have left.

    Sad, really.

    Last one out, turn off the lights.

  10. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    re: 89 days 23hrs 59min 59secs


    Look at it this way. We've not had this 48 hour hard limit *before*, so why should not having it now suddenly mean employers are going to start acting like complete idiots with their employees? They didn't before, when the limit didn't exist. The limit still doesn't exist. Nothing actually changes.

    Anyway it's all moot, the ECJ will simply override it in a year or so and kill off another bit of our freedom. Yes. Freedom. I freelance, that means I can choose to work the hours I want. With this 48 hour limit I would no longer be able choose to work the hours I want. I would no longer be free to do so.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    madness, just madness

    At my last job we had the "opportunity to voluntarily opt out" of this. Yes it was entirely voluntary, we were quite within our rights not to and to keep our right to not work over 48 hours on a regular basis - well as long as we wanted to be seen as "part of the company".

    So opting out is optional, as optional as having any prospect of future career progression.

  12. AC
    Thumb Up

    @Anon Cow

    No, they won't be able to force you to do anything, this allows the employee to opt out of a 48hour week and do extra hours if they wish.

    This is actually good, especially for small firms with more loyal workers, as it works both ways, the employer gets extra time from employees if they want and the employees can earn extra monies.

    What's wrong with that?

  13. Graham Wood

    @Graham Dawson

    Definitely, but to an extent....

    The difficulty (always) is trying to come up with a "one system fits all" for such a massively disparate arrangement.

    For you (and me, although I don't get overtime - I just work it) the ability to make that choice is important. For people that are being forced by unscrupilous managers ("If you aren't willing to give up all of your life for this company, somebody else will - and your family will be on the streets! *MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA") to work the extra hours, that straightjacket is instead a form of protection.

    The opt out system (where you have to sign a piece of paper in advance) is flawed in the same way as not having the system in the first place (e.g. same manager as before gives that form to you as just one of 20 pieces of paper you need to sign to take the job)...

    No, I don't have an answer - but a blanket ban is no worse in general than no ban at all - just to different people.

  14. Dominic Tristram
    Thumb Down

    Bad news

    Why is everyone so keen on working more than 48 hours? Why should we all suffer because of a few selfish people with a stupid work/life balance? Anything that makes it easier for an employer to force us to work more hours for the same money (who actually gets paid overtime?) should be resisted with every fibre of our being, right?

    I'm hoping that we have to sign something to waive our rights, and that it is illegal for companies to treat us in any way negatively for not signing...

    Oh, and all this anti-EU ill-informed rubbish.. what is this, the Daily Mail?

  15. Phantom Analyst

    @ Graham Dawson

    My main point about 89 days 23hrs 59min 59secs is employers will be reluctant in having to spend money in giving temps the same benefits as permies, they will just not renew the contract at the end of 3 months and get a new temp in. Certainly would be the case in low skilled\admin roles where a handover to a new temp is easier.

  16. Steve
    Thumb Up

    missing the point

    You lot that is.

    If you work unpaid overtime, or more than your contracted hours, that's your own silly faults.

    If however you are being paid by the hour, and want to work 70hrs a week, that should be your choice as well.

    The opt out benefits workers, not companies, they can't force you to work more anymore than they could already do so (which comes back to yourself).

  17. Anonymous Coward

    @Graham Dawson

    The problem is most people don't get paid overtime and those of us who want to go in to work on time and leave on time are so often looked down on.

    Personally I feel that what is needed is regulation stating that you can work all the hours you want, as long as it is agreed with the company, but the company must pay overtime for any time beyond your standard working hours. How could any company argue with that?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Freelance workers

    The government don't like freelance workers. In the past, working flexible hours and decoupling of leave and sick pay has been one of the arguments for being a 'freelance consultant' and avoiding the straight jacket imposed by Inland Revenue memo 35 (IR35).

    So, if "agency workers" includes the large number of freelancers who work through agencies (the regulations are very blunt), and includes them in the 12 week rule, they will then get an entitlement to holiday and sick pay. This will lead to an expectation of reduced rates to the freelancer (someone has to pay for the time off), and will make them more like employees (one of the the stated aims). Will this also knock out the defense against IR35 as well? If so, the Government will have another win in the NI contributions the freelancers will then have to pay.

    Government. A barely tolerable evil.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Those who moan on about how it'll kill them...

    ... You have an option to opt out of the workers regulation (which limits you to 48 hours a week). If you choose that option it's up to you to opt back in.

    I NEVER opt out of that regulation. Ever. If my bosses consider me to not be a team player, then so be it. Either pay me a lot more for anything over 48 hours a week, or get stuffed.

  20. Kevin O'Rourke

    @Frederick Karno

    "criminals and terrorists have more human rights than hard working people in this country"

    Wrong. Everyone has the same human rights, that's the way human rights work.

    You just disagree with certain people having those rights.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    @Frederick Karno

    "I have yet to find any European legislation that has helped me or anyone i know..."

    That's because the UK votes down or opts out of all the good stuff.

    "40 hours should be the maximum anyone needs to work in this country to make a decent living and they shouldn't have to have government hand outs to do it."

    I seem to recall the French proposing this for the first draft of the Working Time Directive. Several countries -- including the UK -- worked to push this up to 48. Then we decided that a voluntary opt-out would be good for everyone. I have done jobs where this "voluntary" opt-out was a basic (unstated) requirement.

    "criminals and terrorists have more human rights than hard working people in this country"

    Erm... no. Hard working people have the right to watch TV in their place of residence; not be tortured; not be forced to carry buckets of their own excrement; not be beaten up; not be restrained or otherwise forced to adopt uncomfortable or unhealthy postures etc etc ad nauseum. To the best of my knowledge, the UK, European and international courts have never upheld any complaint by prisoners regarding breaches of human rights that they wouldn't also have upheld against a landlord or employer.

    In essence, what I am getting is that you are ideologically aligned with the EU, but that as a Daily Mail reader you have been indoctrinated into the belief that your life is miserable because of bl**dy f*reigners and that anything your government does that you don't like is because of bleedin' Brussels banana benders.

  22. John Murgatroyd

    Or ?

    It just means that the current situation carries-on and doesn't change, relating to the working time directive. The "opt-out" was negotiated ten years ago, you get the choice of not working more than 48 hours. If you want to you sign the opt-out, which means you can be allowed to work as many hours as you want. If you don't sign, you cannot be allowed (by your employer) to work more than 48 hours.

    The WTD doesn't apply to self-employed workers.

    All this does is set the ten-year-old opt-out as permanent.

    In any case, since most employers pay no attention to any laws at all, this is just another they can ignore with no risk.

  23. Jason Clery


    A maximum 48 hour week, with a written opt-out that can be taken back = good.

    Allowing companies to have more than 48 hour weeks as standard = bad.

    a 50hr week is 10 hours a day at work,+1 hour lunch, +2 hours travel + 8 hours sleep, which means 21 out of 24 hours is used up. Add 1 hour for getting ready and eating in the morning, and an hour dinner and bathing, that leaves 1 hour a day for yourself. If the trains are screwed, it means you get less sleep. Marvellous.

    The flame, because a 50 hour week leads to burnout, broken relationships, and an early death due to a heart attack

  24. Jason Clery

    @ Graham Dawson

    The current legislation has a max 48 hour week than can be opted out of with written consent.

    You can and have always been allowed to work the hours you want, the law means that people who don't want to work those hours don't have to.

  25. SynicNZ

    EWD once again interpreted incorrectly

    This is bollocks. The EWD does not prevent you from working more than 48 hrs per week - its to prevent you from being forced to work > 48 hrs/week ALL THE TIME.

    It allows for an employer to ask you to work longer hours on an occasional basis.

    When will the anti-EU bullshit stop.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re:And how is this a victory for the working person?

    I think its supposd to be a victory for the people who have to work longer than this anyway, but the company can't legally recognise that they've worked it and pay them for it.

    Not sure if i like this or not to be honest, at the moment if i'm wanted in on a sunday, i can simply (well sort of simply an extra hour a day does it), work enough hours during the week to mean that i couldn't legally come in and work for the 12 hours i'm needed on the sunday. Now i would have to come in despite doing that.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    60 hour week here we come...

    AC: Ofcourse they wont "force" you, but lets see the career progression if your one of us who actually manages to do their work in the alloted 9-5 and doesnt stick around the office till 7pm surfing the internet to make it look like we are working late.

    Lets face it, other countries have much higher productivity and societies because they are not worked into the grave.

    Personally I would never signing the waver, because this is just a job to me and I am not interested in management or becoming a brown noser or entering middle management. This doesnt mean Im not good at my job, it just means that I actually have a life and I want to be in the pub by 5.35

    Mines the one with "I got pissed at lunch time and shut the mail server down by mistake on it"

  28. Martin Beckett Silver badge

    @60 hour week here we come

    >Personally I would never signing the waver,

    Until there's a memo saying it's now part of your contract, most contracts allow the employer to change the terms. If you want the pay check you accept it.

    That's why theres has to be statutory requirements - otherwise the boilerplate for all contracts would have you relinquishing maternity/sick leave, health and safety, the right to sue etc.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bunch of liars, the lot of them

    I was in farming when the Working Time Directive took effect, and that's an industry with a lot of intensive work.

    You have to be there when the livestock need feeding. You have to work 12 hour days in harvest periods.

    And there are ways, when everyone signs the correct paperwork, to lawfully do all that.

    So I know what twelve hour days operating complex machinery feel like. And yet I see that as standard (with rotating shift patterns to keep total hours within WTD limits) in local industry. I know what it does to your clarity of thought and alertness.

    And I've no reason to think 12-hour days are any better for programming computers.

    All this will do is allow such reckless abuses of power to be easier. Tired workers will do more stupid things, and the bosses won't have to get any paperwork signed to set it up.

    And there will suddenly be a lot more advertisements for jobs.

    This government is cheerfully privatising the unemployment industry, and Tony's croneys have made big money out of the contracts. They even claim to provide education and training.

    I'm glad I didn't get the forklift truck qualification. 12 hour shifts on that are an accident waiting to happen.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Nice to see all you nine to fivers complaining about having to work more hours.

    An average day for me is 12 hours, but with a bit of judicious jiggery pokery of the paperwork, it can be got down to 10.

    Come and complain when you get problems because you went over 60 hours, which is a hard rule in the WTD.

    But then again, I make good money at the end of the week. So in the grand scheme of things I'd rather get more done now, than piss my leisure time away in little pieces every evening. If you can only average 48 hours, that makes your average wage less when it's spread over a few years. I can work hard now, then while the nine to fivers are still commuting, I can be sat on a beach.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Career progression

    Lets face it, the ambitious or crazy already work their extra hours, now they (/we) can do it officially and maybe get paid for it. But don't bet on the latter.

    Eurocrazy, they're from another star!

  32. Seán

    No really compete with the Chinese

    Just eat shitty food, think that a moped is a status symbol and kill your kids until you have a son who will have to marry a ridiculously spoiled bitch.

    Soon you'll be so competitive you'll be dossng down under your desk and you can have a day off every 2 weeks. Naturally all those hospitals will have to make a profit too.

    Next get rid of that pesky minimum wage and all those stupid health and safety regulations.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    How many...

    ... people actually "voluntarily" work more than 48 hours? Okay, I'm sure there are some, particularly contract staff who are paid by the hour, but in every single case I've seen myself, bar none, the unfortunate worker in question has been variously heckled, blackmailed, humiliated and otherwise forced to do the hours under duress and usually for no extra pay at all, let alone any sort of overtime rate. Usually by some idiot PHB who raises productivity not one iota but still collects a fat bonus anyway for getting more hours out of his or her staff.

    This is most certainly not a victory for the average British worker, though it is one for the freeloading turds at the CBI who'll screw the country's workforce over in any way they can.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I've seen some smug bastards in my time, but you really take the biscuit. Try working 100 hour weeks for months on end (like I used to do) and then see how your spiv economic theories work out then. I'm generally on the anti-Europe side, but the EWD is one of the small sparks of hope in the whole Euromess. It's there to prevent employers from driving their employees into an early grave, but the final acceptance of the opt-out now makes the whole thing worthless.

    Anonymous Coward is unmutual. Deal with it. (Looks for icon with pennyfarthing bicycle)

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Life's too short - why spend it working

    Paris because she doesn't seem to work alot but will still be loaded.....who's the dumb f**k now?

  36. Elrond Hubbard
    Thumb Up

    great idea

    itll be good to hang around in the office even longer hours to try and make up for the lowest productivity levels in europe

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Its bollox

    I had to opt out of the working time directive as part of my employment contract anyway..

  38. John

    The EU can piss off

    If I want to work 60 hours a week and possible have a heart attack by the time I'm 40 then that is MY CHOICE. The EU can piss off. This sort of tosh represents the very worse of what the EU is about.

    Some of these EU countries impose a 35 hour week on their workers. It's like a 4 day week over here, mainly because their economy can't grow and tons of people are unemployed due to over restrictive labour laws. Not that the French would ever admit that of course.

    Come on Ireland, vote no tomorrow. Lets just have a free market, not a government of Europe.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    @AC Its bollox

    "I had to opt out of the working time directive as part of my employment contract anyway.."

    Thats illegal.

    Withdraw consent after your probation. They could pro-rata pay cut you, but if they fire you, the DTI should spank them hard.

    They sound like a bunch of cocks anyway.

    I had one (American) potential employer want a 50 hour week, no overtime, but "time off in lieu" (not that its accrued at overtime rates), the statatory minimum of 20 days leave. Benefits that amounted to a whole £3k/year, and a fairly low pay for what they wanted.

    A few months later another agency called me about the same job, looks like they are struggling to recruit and retain.

    The skull and crossbones... because they want to work us to death

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At the end of the day ...

    The EU can GTFOH or (get the fu*k outta here) and take your working time directive bullsh*t with you!

    I never voted for you so I'll never capitulate to your meaningless drivel and demands.

  41. P. J. Isserlis

    Odd would-be workaholics

    What makes these over 40-hour week workers think they are so effective and productive? I have been there, done that, been admired for it and now realised just how ineffective, dangerous and self-destructive I was. Even now I am stuck on a 42 hour week. I notice that the long-hours types just spend more time "playing" at work: footling, drinking tea/coffee, smoking. Even they need a break.

    Odd that France, just to take an example, has a markedly higher productivity per employee than Britain. Even odder that Brits love to spend their holidays there and rather a lot want the lifestyle enough to move there. Anti-EU nuts rave on about UK's wonderful performance: strange that on all the statistical measures Germany, even Italy and France, seem to do so much better (even allowing for the spin at which UK is an expert).

    If you need 50 or 60 hours per week to do your job, I would suggest that you need to look at the job, what you are doing so badly and consider the resources really needed. Oh, and pay the extra health and social costs that your lifestyle is likely to cause for you and, if you have still got one, your family.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    Remember who to vote for

    At the next election

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: "Thats illegal"

    So are lots of things in the wonderful world of work; doesn't stop them breaking the law, though, I mean what's the worst that's going to happen? Even in the unlikely event of some idealistic fool bothering with the aggravation and risk of going to court, at worst it'll be a slap on the wrist. But how's anyone going to prove anything when the likes of the "persuasion" to opt-out isn't documented, i.e. verbal threats or the cunning trick of handing you an unsigned (by HR) contract or revision to the Ts & Cs with a thoughtfully included opt-out form stapled to the back page ("oh, damn, the printer at our office has inconveniently broken just as I was printing the new contract so I've sent it to your manager's, it'd be so convenient if you could just sign it and pop it in the mail, then I'll have the head of HR sign it once we get it along with the opt out, haha did I really say opt-out? Slip of the tongue, /of course/ that's up to you. And you do know that team players will be rewarded whereas we may be downsizing soon, just thought I'd mention it since I'm on the line, no other reason, ahaha ahem.").

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