A lurch towards common sense on working time
Yesterday the Labour Party Conference voted to end the UK’s individual opt-outs from the Working Time Directive. Predictably, the Daily Mail reported this as a ‘lurch to the left’ . It looks to me more like a lurch towards common sense.
The 48 hour limit on average weekly working time is justified by a wealth of scientific evidence that regularly working long hours is bad for your health. The mains risks are heart disease and stress related illness
I don’t think that you have to be very far to the left of the political spectrum in order to agree that it is a bad idea for individuals to be allowed to opt-out of health and safety law – that way lies dangerous anarchy.
‘But shouldn’t the TUC ‘s role be to help people to work as long as they want?’, I hear you ask.
First, according to the official Labour Force Survey, more than three quarters of long hours workers say that they want to reduce their working time: second, more than two thirds of this work is unpaid; and – most importantly – there is absolutely no point in earning a massive wage packet this week if you are going to end up in hospital next week as a result of overwork.
If you are still not convinced, why not dip into these reports? The DTI paper shows how we could improve productivity while moving away from excessive working time:
‘Working Long Hours’, Beswick and White, Health and Safety Executive, 2003 http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/hsl_pdf/2003/hsl03-02.pdf
‘Managing change: Practical Ways to Reduce Long hours and Reform working Parctices’, DTI, 2005 http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file14239.pdf
No doubt these are these are the kind of evidence-based arguments that the European Parliament will look at when it return to the issue in the Autumn.