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Working Time Regulations had limited impact on labour market, says BIS

A broad review of research has found that links cannot definitively be drawn between the introduction of Working Time Regulations (WTR) and an improvement in workplace health and safety in the UK.

According to the Government report, it is 'unlikely' that the long-term steady decline in workplace fatalities is down to the WTR, although their impact 'cannot be ruled out'.

The Working Time Directive was brought in to protect workers' health and safety, by regulating hours of work, night shifts, rest breaks and holidays.

The report said that the UK already had one of the best workplace health and safety records in Europe, a record which has continued to improve.

It said that it was 'more likely' the decline in workplace accidents was because of an increased awareness of health and safety at work, and a change in the composition of the labour market with fewer workers exposed to physical risks.

Minimum daily and weekly rest breaks, and restrictions on night working laid out in the WTR, have also had far less impact on costs than was anticipated, it said.

Where WTR has made a difference

The report conceded, however, that the WTR had helped reduce long-hours working - but it said the concept of 'working time' had changed since the 1990s.

Technological advances have changed the way we work, with many employers offering remote or flexible working arrangements, and mobile internet now enables people to work while they commute, it said.

One of the WTR's greatest impacts has been an indirect one, arising from European Court of Justice rulings on how the regulations should be implemented, the report said.

It said that rulings about on-call working, the accrual and carry-over of leave, and the relationship between commission payments and non-guaranteed overtime with holiday pay, had 'increased employer costs significantly' and had led to 'complexity and some confusion for employers and workers'.

Acas publications and services

Acas can help you with your obligations surrounding Working hours and can send experts to your organisation to find solutions that your might need for issues concerning Contracts and hours: how Acas can help.

Related training courses are also available on Contracts and terms and conditions, Employing people, Absence management, Employment law update and Flexible working.

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