Back to Messageboard | Home | Site Map  
 

Long-hours working on the rise again in UK  
Posted by Brigid on November 28 2007, 08:21 » Uploaded 28/11/07 14:52  

Long-hours working on the rise again in UK

Lucy Ward, social affairs correspondent
Wednesday November 28, 2007
The Guardian

A culture of working long hours is on the rise once more in the UK after a decade of gradual decline, according to figures today. More than one in eight of the British workforce now work more than 48 hours a week, the maximum allowed under the law unless workers agree to waive that limit. The proportion rises to one in six in London. The figures, highlighted by the TUC and extracted from the latest Labour Force Survey, prompted warnings from campaigners that children and family life risk being squeezed further.

The UK's working hours are among the longest in Europe. But there has been a steady if slow fall in long-hours working since 1997. The latest figures reverse that trend for the first time under the Labour government, with 93,000 more people now working more than 48 hours a week compared with 2006, taking the total to almost three and a quarter million (3,242,000). The increase represents a rise from 12.8% to 13.1% of the workforce.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber called the numbers "disturbing" and blamed a "hard core of bad employers" prepared to flout laws intended to protect workers from excessive hours.

Under the European working time directive, workers are legally not obliged to work more than 48 hours, though under a special opt-out granted to the UK British employees are allowed to work longer if they explicitly agree. In practice, according to the TUC, a lack of enforcement means the directive is regularly ignored. "Employers know that this is one employment right that they can breach with little or no risk of any consequences," the organisation said yesterday. The biggest increases in the number of people working more than 48 hours are in the south-east (up 28,000 to 525,000) and in London (up 25,000 to 481,000). In the capital, over 16% of the workforce works long hours.

Barber said: "These are very disturbing numbers. They suggest that the slow, but at least steady, decline in those working more than 48 hours a week has come to an end. Many employers recognise that overworked staff are unproductive by introducing more flexibility and better work-life balance, often under union pressure. But it now looks as if their efforts are being undone by those who don't care about long hours. No one should forget that 48 hours is six eight-hour days, more than enough for anyone every week." The TUC said the official figures are unlikely to include a proper share of migrant workers and exclude those who live at their place of work, such as some hotel and care staff.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of the work-life balance campaign group Working Families, said: "Let's not kid ourselves that this is about people in high-pressure and highly paid City jobs and think, OK, they are selling their time in return for fantastic financial rewards. This is actually about people who are doing basic jobs the rest of us depend on - and their hours are quite clearly creeping up."

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/unions/story/0,,2218130,00.html


COMMENTS Post comment

 

Comment 01 – Brian D November 28 2007, 19:55

The CBI, rightwing press, etc, have "framed" this issue with great success. Note the wording in the posted Guardian article:

Under the European working time directive, workers are legally not obliged to work more than 48 hours, though under a special opt-out granted to the UK British employees are allowed to work longer if they explicitly agree.

The European rules are framed - misleadingly - as not "allowing" employees to work the hours they want to work (including the occasional choice of working over 48 hours). The UK "opt-out" is framed as coming to the rescue of UK workers.

In fact, the European rules are to protect workers from being forced (either by contract or by emotional blackmail) to work hours which have been shown to be detrimental to health over a long period (by numerous studies). They're not about restricting the freedom of workers to occasionally work long hours. They're about preventing employers from forcing workers to consistently work excessive hours (eg over 48 hours per week taken as an average over a period of 12 months).

For more on this framing, including another example of it from the Guardian: http://mediahell.org/flexiblelabour.htm

 

Post comment

   
Name:
Email:  
Display email
address?
  Don't display    Display
Lifespan of comment   Delete after 3 weeks    Keep permanent if post is permanent  

Comment:

 
Optional link URL:
eg "http://mediahell.org"
 
Optional link text:
eg "Media Hell"
 
 

 

  Messageboard Back to top