Working hours practices varyOn 1 Nov 2001 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article EU member nations are trying to unify recruitment, working hours andemployment practices. But as Bo Kremer-Jones reports thereare still manyexceptions to the rule Member nations of the EU have been working towards the creation of uniformemployment practices and rules ever since it was first established. Althoughthere are now many similarities between the way companies in this regionrecruit, compensate and operate, there is still a long way to go beforeemployment regulations across the region are completely uniform. One major distinction is the regulated number of hours worked by employeesper week. Across the EU, this can vary from 35 to 48 hours, although the averagefor most countries is 40 hours. Probably one of the most conspicuous and well publicised alterations toEuropean employment law in recent times is the decision taken in Franceobliging firms with more than 20 employees to reduce their employees’ workingweek to 35 hours, as of 1 January 2000. For companies with less than 20employees, this rule will come into effect from 1 January 2002. However, the UK has moved in the opposite direction, allowing for anextension of the working week. Shona Newman of law firm, Baker & McKenzieexplains, “In the UK, many companies work on the basis of their employeesworking more than 48 hours per week.” She continues, “Employeesthemselves are often willing to work the extra hours because of theconsiderable overtime they can earn. However, she adds, “When it becameeffective on 1 October 1998, Regulation 4 (1) of the Working Time Regulationsimposed a maximum limit of 48 hours per week, averaged over a 17-week period.Under Regulation 5, employees can opt out of the limitation provided they do soin writing.” The average working week in Ireland is lengthy too, according to lawyers atClifford Chance, “Under the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, themaximum average working week is 48 hours, subject to a phase-in period.”But they add, “Hours may be averaged over a period of two, four, six or6-12 months, depending on the circumstances.” And they add, “The Actalso requires employers to provide rest breaks to employees. They have anentitlement to a 15-minute rest break where up to 4.5 hours have been workedand 30 minutes where up to six hours have been worked.” There have also been discussions about the number of working hours in theNetherlands, where last year time flexibility legislation was introduced, givingemployees the right to request an extension or a shortening of their workinghours. This may sound as if the employees are in control, but as Baker &McKenzie point out, “The employer may reject an application for adjustmentof the working hours if the desired spread of the hours is not ‘reasonable andfair’ or if the adjustment is contrary to ‘weighty business or employmentinterests’ – serious problems reassigning newly available hours, safety issuesor problems scheduling activities, for example.” And in Spain, debate over a 35-hour week, similar to that in France, hasbeen opened, although as yet no formal decision has been made. Aside from theaverage working week, there have been other amendments to the country’semployment law. Angela Toro of Baker & McKenzie in Spain notes, “The newest changesare restrictions on the types of temporary employment contracts to encouragecompanies to hire their employees with indefinite relationships. “Consequently, in the case of dismissal, unless it is based on one ofthe legal possibilities and can be clearly proven, the employee will beentitled to a severance package of between 20 and 45 days’ salary per year ofemployment.” Greek employers are less generous than their Spanish counterparts,particularly where blue-collar workers are concerned. As Clifford Chance’sreport, Employment and Benefits in the European Union states, an employeehaving worked up to one year with an organisation whose contract is terminatedhas the right to severance pay of just five days’ wages. Up to two years ofemployment and this figure increases to seven days, up to three years and theterminated employee will receive 15 days’ wages and so up a scale that endswith a maximum of 125 days’ wages for those having given 25 years of serviceand above. In other parts of Europe, outside the EU, working conditions are just asvaried. In particular, the average working week again differs greatly fromnation to nation. And often, what is laid down by law is only a guideline andthe reality can be very different. In Albania for example, The Federation of European Employers (FedEE) notes,”The legal maximum working week is 48 hours,” although, it pointsout, “In practice hours are typically set by individual or collectiveagreement.” And it adds, “Many people work six days a week.” In Belarus, the opposite can be true. The Constitution and Labour Code hasagreed a limit of 40 hours of work per week with a rest period of 24 hours. Butas Hans Jabs, a recruitment consultant working in Belarus notes, “Giventhe country’s struggling economic situation, many workers find they are workingless than 40 hours per week. Often their employer will also require them totake unpaid breaks while either waiting for raw materials or as the demand fortheir output dwindles.” But as Jabs adds, “There is a minimum wage set in Belarus of 44-66euros per month, again, this is seldom adhered to in reality. Difficult workingconditions and struggling firms make it extremely hard for workers to earn adecent living. Too often workers are forced to wait for late payment of theirsalaries, because employers simply cannot afford to pay them. It is not unusualfor major wage arrears to grow,” he adds. Like other areas of employment law, although the law “Establishes minimumconditions for workplace safety and worker health,” says FedEE,”these standards are often ignored. Workers at many heavy machinery plantsdo not wear even minimal safety gear, such as gloves, hard hats, or weldingglasses,” it reports. Further legal linkswww.bakernet.comwww.euen.co.ukwww.dti.gov.ukwww.cliffordchance.comwww.hammondsuddardsedge.com Related posts:No related photos.