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Stewards - European Working Time Directive

Stewards - European Working Time Directive

Information for RCM Stewards on the European Working Time Directive

A detailed description of the content of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) can be found either on the ACAS or Department of Health websites.

However, the following recent legal cases have modified the provisions of the EWTD:

Firstly, the case of the Harrow care home workers who were required to be "on call" at work on the premises for 76 hours a week. The employment tribunal said the council had not given the women proper daily rest or given them the national minimum wage for their time on standby and decided the 76 hours the workers were on call counted as work.

Secondly, Simap, a Spanish doctors' union complained to the European Court of Justice that time spent by doctors "on call", either at the medical centre or away from it, counted as "Working Time" and therefore towards the 48-hour week. The ECJ ruled that time spent by Spanish doctors on call at their place of employment, but not actually working, was working time.

In contrast, time spent “on call” when workers were required to be contactable, but were not at work, and could pursue their leisure interests with fewer constraints, could not be classed as working time. This ruling now forms the existing DTI guidance on "on call" hours.

Thirdly, the Department of Health and the DTI are awaiting a decision concerning a German doctor, Norbert Jaeger, that has become known as The Jaeger Judgement. Essentially, he claims that time spent “on call” at the hospital is working time whereas his employer says periods of time where doctors are “on call” but are inactive should be regarded as rest periods rather than working time.

In short, the EWTD provisions are still as follows

  • No more than 48 hours work per week (averaged over a 17week reference period)

  • 11 hours continuous rest in 24 hours

  • 24 hours continuous rest in 7 days (or 48 hrs in 14 days)

  • 20 minute break in work periods of over 6 hours

  • 4 weeks annual leave

  • Provisions for night workers

  • Citizens of European Member States may ignore the above upon signing a derogation