Working Time Opt-out

The European Commission commissioned research on the working time opt-out in 2003. They issued two communications, the first one on 5 January 2004, covering the opt-out, along with doctors' on call time and the reference period over which workers' hours are averaged.

This Communication asked for responses by 31 March 2004.

The UK responded to the Communication -

Communication from the Commission concerning the re-examination of Directive 93/104/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time response of the United Kingdom

The Commission issued a 2nd stage consultation on 19 May 2004. This was for consultation with EU Social Partners (not Member States) who normally have six weeks to respond with comments and a decision whether to negotiate on the options within the document or not.

On 22 September 2004, the Commission produced legislative proposals.  The proposals and press release from the Commission can be found here.

The proposals include solutions to resolve the issues relating to doctors’ on call time, raised by the SiMAP/Jaeger ECJ rulings. The proposals also extend the weekly working time reference period to 12 months. However, they also impose limits on the individual opt-out – restricting its use to cases where there is no collective agreement in force and no workers’ representation empowered to conclude a collective agreement. There are also additional requirements for record-keeping. 

The proposals must be agreed by the European Council and the European Parliament in co-decision. The UK Government is currently lobbying in Europe in order to obtain the best deal for the UK.  

Current position on the opt-out in the UK

As the opt out is going through a negotiating process in Europe, the UK law remains unchanged on this point and workers are still able to opt-out of the weekly working time limits.  The UK will be given time to implement any changes to legislation and any future developments on this and other Working Time topics will be posted on this website in due course.

Member States discussed a revised proposal from the European Commission at the Employment Council on 2 June.  However there was no agreement on the proposals at this point.