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Government announces changes to regulations for recording working time

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

The Department for Business and Trade has announced it will scrap the EU’s Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR). In a policy paper, entitled Smarter Regulation to Grow the UK Economy, the Department for Business and Trade outlined major reforms to WTR. Notably, the removal of a retained EU law that requires working hour records to be kept for almost all members of the workforce.

Under the proposals, the EU’s Working Time Directive will remain. The law limits UK employees to 48-hour working weeks – as well as how many hours workers can operate at night.

The existing law does not currently apply to certain employment groups, such as those who are self-employed. However, employers who do currently follow working time rules will no longer be required to keep records to ensure that the time limit is being followed.

Certainly, the reduction in administrative requirements is welcome news for small business owners. If employees are currently tasked with logging their working hours, removing this activity will free up more time to carry out other activities that add value.

There is also a financial incentive. Currently if working hour records aren’t kept then the risk to employers is an unlimited fine.

Nonetheless, the reforms will also make it easier for negligent bosses to overwork their employees. Paul Nowak, general secretary of the Trades Union Council (TUC) criticised the government’s stated aims, calling them “a gift to rogue employers looking to exploit workers and put them through long, gruelling shifts without enough rest”.

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