Working Time Directive

The EU Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC) requires EU countries to guarantee minimum standards applicable throughout the EU with regard to workers’ rights.

In 2004, the European Commission published a proposal for the revision of the Working Time Directive. The need for a new Directive was caused by a number of European Court of Justice Rulings.

In 2004, HOPE responded to a Communication of the European Commission re-examining certain aspects of the Directive. HOPE welcomed the possibility given to Member States of an extension of the reference period so that working hours could be averaged over a period of up to twelve months. However, HOPE highlighted that there should be flexibility for longer reference periods – up to two years – to be negotiated by collective agreement. A longer reference period would permit a more realistic approach to calculating working time, particularly where this may fluctuate over the period.

HOPE supported the European Commission’s proposal to classify residential on-call time as a special form of working time and to distinguish “active” from “inactive” working time. This approach would allow for a flexible organization of working time that is suited to hospital requirements and at the same time prevent extended periods of on-call duty.

The European Commission also proposed new criteria for the use of the individual opt-out. HOPE recognized the concerns, which have been raised about the use of the individual opt-out and particularly about the potential for the current provisions to be abused to the detriment of workers.

However, HOPE underlined that the opt-out facility provides both employers and workers with flexibility in the organization of services and working time. Therefore, HOPE wished the opt-out rule to remain in effect as proposed by the European Commission.

In relation to compensatory rest, HOPE welcomed the Commission’s proposal that this should not have to be taken immediately but within a defined period after the end of the period of work. HOPE believes that it should be possible to grant compensatory rest periods outside the 72 hours proposed by the Commission where, for example, this is agreed in national legislation or collective agreements.


Recent developments

The Commission’s proposal was not adopted since the European Parliament and the Council could not reach agreement on the issues of on call time, opt out and multiple contracts. Thus, it is now up to the Commission to decide on the review of the current legislation.

To follow up on this issue, in December 2014 the European Commission launched a public consultation.  The main purpose of the consultation was to gather insights and contributions from the public in the context of the ongoing European Commission’s review and impact assessment process.

HOPE replied to the consultation and provided indications for improvement of the current rules. To learn more, download HOPE reply.

In 2017, the European Commission published a report on the implementation of the EU Working Time Directive, identifying persistent shortcomings and providing guidance to Member States in the transposition of the law.