08 September 2006

Working 9 to 5

Via The Times:
"Businesses were ordered yesterday to ensure that their staff took minimum rest periods, after existing guidelines were dismissed as “meaningless” by the European Court of Justice.

Judges in the ECJ

The ruling means that employers must ensure that staff take off at least 11 hours between working days, and have a minimum of 1 day off a week, as well as a 20-minute rest after every 6 hours of work."
Can't see anything wrong with that - if anything the concentration of workers must wane after 6 hours, lowering productivity. It's also good for the health (mental and physical) of workers. But not according to "business groups", who said:
"... employees would be unable to choose to work long hours to earn more money because they would be forced to take breaks against their will."
I can see the scene now - employers having to wrest reluctant employees from their desk, forcing them to take a walk, chat to loved ones or, heaven forbid, eat. I predict carnage in the office as employees take their revenge against businesses, stabbing the heartless boss who ordered him to go home, just to comply with these "Euro-crats". God, this is EU law gone made, absolutely mad*.

* Moron warning: I'm not being serious.


Tristan said...

It is illiberal, and counterproductive.

If someone wishes to work long hours (as some people do - we have someone here who will do 24 hour days at his own volition, he's salaried so it doesn't increase his salary directly) they cannot.

It treats people as simply tools, in the way capitalism is accused of. People are individuals and should be able to make individual decisions.

It is this sort of meddling with people's lives which whilst they sound good, make people worse off by denying them the opportunity to behave as they wish.

I would have less of a problem if the legislation requires employers to let employees have these conditions, then they are protected yet can still make the choice to waive the rights.

Gavin Whenman said...

I'm loathe to get into a discussion of what's liberal or not - but I do want to set out why I believe the ECJ's judgment is just.
If the ECJ had allowed people to opt out of this restriction it would undoubtedly led to employers inserting clauses into employment contracts to this effect. It must be remembered that people on lower incomes are less likely to be able to negotiate their terms of employment, yet they are the ones which, in my view, need the most protection from this type of behaviour. The reason I believe this judgment is liberal is because it protects the weak (low income employees) against harm from the strong (exploitative employers).