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What is the Working Time Directive (WTD)?

Posted by Softworks Workforce on Tue, Jun 22, 2010
What are the main provisions of the current Working Time Directive? 
The Directive provides a minimum guarantee (depending on age) of: 
  • A maximum average working week (including overtime) of 48 hours. 
  • A minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24. 
  • Breaks when the working day exceeds six hours. 
  • A minimum weekly rest period of 24 hours plus the 11 hours daily rest period in every seven-day period. 
  • A minimum of four weeks paid annual leave. 
  • Night work is restricted to an average of eight hours in any 24-hour period. 
To whom does the working time directive apply? 
To all sectors of activity, both public and private. 
Air, rail, road, sea, inland waterway and lake transport, sea fishing, other work at sea and the activities of doctors in training are excluded from the 1993 directive but brought within its scope in the 2000 directive. 
All the excluded sectors except doctors in training have been covered, under national law, since 1 August 2003. 
Doctors in training have been covered since 1 August 2004. They will work a maximum week of 58 hours until 2009. From 1 August 2009 their maximum working week falls to 48 hours. 
working time directiveWho is exempt? 
  • Member States may exempt three categories of worker from the directive's key provisions: managing executives or other persons with autonomous decision-making power; family workers; and workers officiating at religious ceremonies. 
  • Other categories can be exempted from the directive's key provisions provided compensatory rest or appropriate protection is granted. These include employees who work a long way from home, or whose activities require a permanent presence or continuity of service or production, or who work in sectors which have peaks of activity. Examples include offshore workers, security guards, journalists, emergency workers, agricultural workers and tour guides. 
  • Under 18 year olds because they can work a maximum of 40 hours per week, 5 days a week. 
How is working time defined? 
Working time is deemed to be "any period during which the worker is working, at the employer's disposal and carrying out his activities or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice" (Article 2). Rest time is defined as "any period, whic
h is not working time". There is no provision under the existing directive for on-call time. 
How is the maximum working week calculated? 
The maximum week of 48 hours is calculated as an average over a standard reference period of four months (Article 16). This gives employers flexibility to organise work patterns in accordance with the nature of the work. In certain cases, the reference period can be extended to six months, e.g. for employees who work a long way from home, security guards, journalists, postal workers, agricultural workers or transport workers. In addition, Member States can allow the reference period to be extended to up to one year, under a collective agreement. 

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