On the day that the Trades Union Congress (TUC) suggested that a quarter of workers have to sign a 48-hour opt out of the Working Time Regulations and a new CIPD survey is set to show an increase in the length of working hours, a new poll suggests that HR professionals are no exception when it comes to needing a 48-hour opt-out.
According to an HR Gateway web poll of 365 HR professionals, a quarter work over 48 hours a week with the majority - more than four out of ten - working between 40-48 hours. A further quarter told the poll that they worked between 25-39 hours a week and five per cent between 0-24 hours a week.
Meanwhile, the TUC’s Brendan Barber continues to claim that long hours are a threat to health in the UK:
"Employees are tired and stressed. Business is unproductive. The European Commission should end the opt out to the EU Working Time Directive when they review it later this year.
"Unions always feared that employers would abuse the opt-out and this is exactly what has happened. In the meantime the TUC will continue to ensure that employees are properly informed of their right to a reasonable working week," he said.
However, a new survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) to be released this week suggests that many workers are happy working long hours, and that ending the opt out wouldn’t work. People need to be given choice, said the CIPD today:
"You cannot take one rule and apply it across professions. A survey we are to release shows that half of people work long hours because they want to and that satisfaction levels among these workers is high.
"There appears to be very little evidence of employer compulsion and so ending the opt-out does not seem a fair way to go. There is a difference between professionals and people working on the shop floor, however," the CIPD said.
HR Gateway's Vanessa Stebbings agreed with the CIPD that ending the opt-out would stifle business. Many UK workers are happy to work longer to do a good job, she says:
"You cannot shift culture in the UK overnight. Many people want to put in the hours to help something grow. Many firms recognise this and compensate accordingly. It is purely employee driven.
"You have to let people make the choice while protecting those who are vulnerable. A blanket end to the opt-out will not achieve this," she says.