New round of consultation on review of EU working time Directive

As part of its review of the EU working time Directive, the European Commission launched on 21 December the mandatory second stage of consultation with workers' and employers' representatives at EU level. It also presented a detailed Report on the legal implementation of the Working Time Directive in Member States.

The new consultation paper on the Working Time Directive asks for social partners' views on options to review EU working time rules while presenting the main results of the first-stage consultation of the social partners regarding working time rules and providing an overview of the latest evidence on working time trends and patterns, as well as the social and economic impact of the current rules in Member States.

The launch of this consultation paper represents the next step in a new review of EU working time legislation announced by Commission President José Manuel Barroso in late 2009. The review is shaped by a set of policy objectives primarily to adapt the working time to the changing world of work, while protecting workers' health and safety.

Key themes addressed by Second Stage consultation on working time rules

  • on-call time
  • timing of minimum rest periods
  • tackling excessive working hours
  • better reconciliation of work and family life and
  • clarifying areas whether the law appears unclear

A wide consensus emerged from the replies of the EU-level workers' and employers' representatives to the first stage consultation. The clear message has been that changes to the current working time rules are urgently needed. There is also a high degree of consensus that EU working time rules should allow greater flexibility for workers' and employers' representatives to negotiate on the details of implementation at the appropriate level.

The European Commission has also presented a detailed Report on the implementation of the current Working Time Directive in the Member States, setting out the current state-of-play and identifying the main areas of non-compliance or of legal uncertainty in the various countries.

The Commission has also presented the first findings of independent studies on the economic and social impact of working time rules and of research on relevant changes in working patterns. This study also suggests that the Directive can act as a catalyst for efficiency gains and a better work-life balance. The Commission will be publishing these results to facilitate the social partners' replies to the consultation.