Description:A review of the European Working Time Directive has been under discussion for the past five years. The main issues in contention are those regarding on-call time, opt-out and sick leave.
Implication(s):Following the second stage of the European Commission’s consultation process, in 2011 BusinessEurope and ECTU opened negotiations on a limited revision of the Directive. These are restricted to dealing with the adverse effects of the ECJ decisions regarding on-call time and annual leave/sick leave.
On-call time: While the Directive distinguishes between working time and rest periods, it does not determine whether time spent on-call should be included as working time. ECJ cases such as SIMAP and Jaeger ruled in favour of such an inclusion. This would pose challenges to employers as it would require the re-organisation of work schedules or the recruitment of more staff in order to avoid a breach of the weekly working hours limit.
Sick leave: Recent ECJ cases, notably Shultz-Hoff and Stringer, have contradicted some national law provisions by allowing for the carrying over of annual leave by employees on long-term sick leave. The ECJ also ruled that in such circumstances, the employee could be recompensed financially for annual leave not taken, sometimes accrued over a number of years. This would prove costly to many organisations.
Current Position:Negotiations are ongoing and any framework agreement will have to go to the EU Council of Ministers for approval.
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