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Health and Safety

Working time

The UK tops the European long hours league. And is the only country that allows staff to opt out of the 48-hour working week ceiling introduced across the European Union as a health and safety measure.

Those overworked are more stressed and less productive, liable to depression, strains and sprains and more exposed to the hazards of work. Working long hours makes for a work life imbalance that can wreck home life and personal relations.

Working when tired can be dangerous and possibly fatal - studies have found driving tired can be as dangerous as driving drunk.

Trade union initiatives aim to tackle the problem of long hours and redress the worklife imbalance. The TUC's It's about time campaign aims to put long hours and worklife balance at the top of the workplace agenda.

In 2004 TUC launched Work your proper hours day where workers were encouraged to take the lunch breaks they usually work through and leave for home at their contracted time.


Hazards webpages on overwork

Union strategies to develop so work doesn't take over our lives

TUC Take a Break! Your working time rights

TUC It's about time campaign

TUC Changing Times, worklife balance webpages

The Working Time Regulations 1998

DTI Work-Life Balance Team

The most recent documents available on this subject are:

Oh so slow progress on long hours
Unpaid overtime is on the decline, but progress is so slow that it will take until 2030 to end regular unpaid overtime of more than 10 hours every week, according to a TUC analysis of official statistics.
PDF version available for download
23 February 2007

Unpaid hours cost workers £4,800 a year
Employees in the UK who do unpaid overtime do an average of seven hours six minutes extra work a week, and would take home and extra £4,800 a year if they were paid the average wage for those unpaid hours, according to new figures from the TUC.
PDF version available for download
12 January 2007

Union exposes evidence of 'doctored' DHL timesheets
Union officials have discovered drivers' timesheets at distribution firm DHL Exel in Redditch have been deliberately changed by managers without the drivers' knowledge.
PDF version available for download
1 December 2006

Union dismay as working time opt-out stays
Ministers from EU countries have been unable to agree an end to the UK opt-out from Europe's 48-hour working week ceiling.
PDF version available for download
10 November 2006

UK forced to tighten rules on work breaks
The TUC has welcomed a European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgment this week that said the UK government is breaking the law by not forcing employers to give their staff rest breaks.
PDF version available for download
8 September 2006

Staff still forced to work excessive hours
Too many employees are still being forced to work long hours without appropriate rest, despite the growing evidence that this is bad for health and safety, according to the safety professionals organisation IOSH.
16 June 2006

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