Working Time Directive: European Commission plans to interpret and not revise

(27 January 2017) At a meeting on 19 January, the European Commission explained to trade union and employer representatives that it did not plan to revise the Working Time Directive. Instead, it will publish an Interpretative Communication which will bring together case law on working time and clarify any elements of the Directive that have been poorly understood in the implementation process. This is foreseen for March.

Employers continue to argue that not all on-call time at work should be counted 100% as working time and that there should be more flexibility when compensatory rest should be taken. The trade unions made clear that this goes against the health and safety needs of workers. We considered it important that the Commission stands by the health and safety basis of the Directive, including in particular the court rulings on on-call time. The Court rulings were a step forward in terms of health and safety. EPSU pointed to examples at national level where affiliates negotiated agreements tackling issues arising from the on-call rulings. The Commission said that the Communication would include some examples of national initiatives that had been taken to implement the Directive and address problems in particular sectors.

Working time studies

The Commission said it would publish the latest implementation report on the Directive at the same time as the Communication. EPSU expects the Commission to also publish the reports of three surveys and analyses of the impact of the Directive that had been carried out in 2014. One of these reports deals with the health sector.

This information meeting was convened at very short notice by the European Commission as they wanted to discuss their proposal on working time in time to launch it as part of a package of measures linked to the European Pillar of Social Rights expected for March. EPSU was part of an ETUC delegation of 11, including representatives of confederations from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Sweden as well as from the European level organisations representing managers. The employers had a delegation of 15, including representatives of the CEEP public service employer’s organisation and the hospital employers’ organisation, HOSPEEM.

This is a priority dossier for EPSU and information has been sent to affiliated unions. Below you will find a briefing note from the ETUC, a briefing note and presentation from the European Commission prepared for the hearing in January as well as an outline of the proposed Interpretative Communication.

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