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CaseCheck reports that ‘The European Commission has agreed to extend the negotiating period on reviewing the Working Time Directive to 31 December 2012, because the negotiations are making progress.”  I suspect therefore changes will follow some time late next year.
The review of the Working Time Directive is aimed at updating EU working time rules to take account of profound changes in the world of work and to better meet the needs of employers and workers in the 21st century.
Under the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), the Commission must consult with management and labour at EU level before proposing any changes to EU labour law. Further, under article 154(4) TFEU, the EU level social partners have the right, if the employer and worker representatives agree, to enter negotiations themselves on what changes should be made.
If the social partners reach an agreement, they are entitled (Art 155 of the TFEU) to ask for its implementation as a Directive.
The Commission would then present the social partners’ agreement to the EU’s Council of Ministers in the form of a Directive. Under the Treaty, the Council may either adopt the agreement as a Directive, or reject it, by qualified majority, but may not amend it. The European Parliament is informed, but is not a co-legislator.)
If the social partners do not reach an agreement, the Commission would then come forward with a legislative proposal to amend the Directive, based on its previous consultation and impact assessment work.
Other examples of where this legislative proceess has been implemented can be found in, for example, the 1997 Part-Time Work Directive (97/81/EC) and the 1999 Fixed-Term Work Directive (1999/70/EC).
Under the Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC), each Member State must (as a minimum) ensure that every worker is entitled to:
  • a limit to weekly working time, which must not exceed 48 hours on average, including any overtime
  • a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24
  • a minimum weekly rest period of 24 uninterrupted hours for each seven-day period, which is added to the 11 hours’ daily rest
  • paid annual leave, of at least four weeks per year
  • extra protection in the case of night work (e.g. average working hours should not exceed 8 hours per 24-hour period; night workers should not perform heavy or dangerous work for longer than 8 hours in any 24-hour period).
There are a number of exceptions and derogations, providing flexibility in the application of these rules.’  I have a European summary of many of the differences.
Thanks to EUROPA for this update and comment.