BRITAIN ‘S LONGEST HOURS PRODUCE LOWEST PRODUCTIVITY
Green MEP calls to end the opt-out and opt-in to a healthier workforce
British people work the longest hours in Europe, yet due to stress and
fatigue, productivity is one of the lowest. With levels falling far
behind France, Britain’s long hours culture is seriously threatening our
physical and mental health.
The warning comes, on the eve of ‘Work Your Proper Hours Day’, as UK
Green MEP, Jean Lambert, launches her new report ‘I must work harder?
Britain and the Working Time Directive,’
Jean Lambert, Vice-Chair of the Green Group in the European Parliament
and co-ordinator of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, has
called on the UK Government to end the opt-out and opt in to a
healthier, safer workforce. Today Jean commented; “Britain’s long hours
culture has encroached on our society through the British opt-out in the
Working Time Directive, the only EU country to adopt such a clause. It’s
not just our opportunities for a social and family life that has been
eroded but we are now seeing record levels of employee sick leave due to
long hours and stress.
“Sadly the British work culture is such that stress is seen as a
weakness and so instead of being treated, gets worse, costing both the
individual and business. Indirect causes of long hours such as tiredness
on the roads are particularly damaging. Symptoms of stress and fatigue
are often worse than being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“The Health and Media industries, where long assignments and intensive
work is often needed, are currently very worrying. 80% of media
employees work overtime and 16% have visited a GP because of stress,
which they attribute to deadlines and pressures of work.”
Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London – the region where people work the
most excessive hours, is concerned that many do not truly ‘opt-out’ but
sign away their right to a cap on their working hours under pressure or
do not know they can refuse. The Greens simply argue that the UK adheres
to a maximum 48-hour week and, where intensive work has occurred, the
employee is given compensatory rest through time off.
“We want fair hours for fair pay. The UK Government talks about vision
but it is clear to me that without focus on the prevention of ill
health, shortsighted policies will result in the public sector picking
up the bill once again. It is time the Government accepted that long
hours are simply damaging our health, innovation and economy. We have to
protect the UK’s workforce by getting rid of the opt-out and regulating
the working week,” Jean concluded.
The new report was launched today in Paternoster Square, St Paul’s where
Jean brought light relief to stressed city workers as she handed out
stress balls and was joined by jugglers finding a work-life balance and
clocks growing time.**