Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Time for 'Robots' to Find a Balance

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Time for 'Robots' to Find a Balance

Article excerpt

Byline: DANNY BRADBURY

Legislation may soon be stricter on the hours that employees are allowed to work. Danny Bradbury examines the effects it will have on the workaholic IT industry

THE week beginning 23 September was Work-Life Balance Week. Organised by the Work-Life Balance Trust, a charity focusing on reconciling home-life with working responsibilities, the event included input from 50 large employers and more than a million workers throughout the UK.

Doubtless many of those workers will have come from an IT background and will therefore not be strangers to working long hours. In the boom of the late nineties production was so high that techies worked long hours to meet deadlines. Even today, with projects scaled back, resources are so limited that permanent staff are working long hours to produce results without the assistance of contractors.

The Working Time Directive - implemented in 1988 - was meant to solve the problem. Under the law employees were not supposed to work more than an average of 48-hours per week. Yet figures, compiled by the DTI Work-Life Balance Campaign and Management Today, show that one in six employees work over 60-hours per week, compared to one in eight during 2002.

So what has happened? Alison Bell, a partner at solicitor Bond Pearce, explains that the UK has an opt-out clause which enables employees to work more hours if they agree to do so. "The industry, with its workaholic history, has committed employees who are prepared to work long hours," she says.

The issue is likely to heat up again when the opt-out clause is reviewed by the European Council on 23 November, 2003. If it is not allowed to continue, new employees will lose the option of longer hours.

Bell believes it is unlikely to result in increased legal action.

"A lot of employees will not want to lose their freedom to work long hours," she says. …

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