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  • International Workplace
  • 9 January 2018
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Ministers lobby to scrap Working Time Directive

The rights of UK workers to limited working hours, rest breaks and paid holiday could be adversely affected by the reported lobbying by government ministers, including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, to scrap the Working Time Directive during a cabinet meeting on the UK’s future trade relationship with the EU. 

The Directive is implemented into UK law by the Working Time Regulations 1998, which came into force on 1 October 1998. Under these Regulations, working time is defined as any period during which a worker is “working, at his employer’s disposal and carrying out his activity or duties”, any period during which the worker is receiving “relevant training”, or any additional period that is agreed in a relevant agreement to be “working time”.

The Regulations limit working hours and provide for rest breaks and minimum paid holiday rights. The Regulations apply to ‘workers’, including employees, temporary workers and freelancers, but not the genuinely self-employed. Young workers are protected by special rights such as greater rest break entitlements.

If the Regulations were scrapped, these rights would be lost, potentially leading to employees facing significant health and safety risks.

Commenting on the news reports, General secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady, said:

“I’ve seen reports of a ministerial plot to scrap the Working Time Directive. This is a straight-up attack on our rights at work. Millions of workers – especially part-time women – got paid holidays because of this rule. And it stops bosses from forcing us to work ridiculous hours.

“The PM promised not to weaken workers’ rights after Brexit. This will test if she can keep her word, or if she’s a prisoner of extremists in her own cabinet."

Read International Workplace’s full guide to working time here.