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Are you on safe ground to refuse overtime to your workers?

January 25, 2012 7:20 am Published by Leave your thoughts

In a recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) case an employer’s right to refuse overtime and Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) were considered and found in the company’s favour.

The case is Arriva London South Limited and Nicolaou. Mr Nicolaou had successfully claimed victiminsation following Arriva’s refusal to grant overtime at Employment Tribunal (ET). The EAT however, considered the reason for Arriva’s refusal. Arriva’s policy was to avoid breaches of the WRT and refusing Mr Nicolaou’s overtime was an implementation of that policy.  Mr Nicholaou had not signed an opt-out to the WTR.  The court found the implementation of the policy was not an action to penalise him. The EAT were satisfied that Arriva’s policy was reasonable and set out to comply with the statutory duty under the WTR.

Working Time Directive

The Working Time Regulations 1998 implement the European Working Time Directive in the UK.  The purpose of the Directive is to protect worker’s health and safety which means that enforcement of breaches, in most cases, fall to the Health & Safety Executive.

Under the WTR, an employer must not let their workers’ working time exceed 48 hours a week, on average.  Breach of this limit can result in criminal liability for the employer.  However, the limit does not apply if a worker has signed a voluntary opt-out, which Mr Nicolaou, in the case above, had not.

The Working Time Regulations are a complex piece of legislation that are by no means limited to the maximum number of hours a worker can work (on average) per week.  For example, WTR also sets the hours per day, minimum non-working hours between worked days or nights, maximim hours for night shifts and the requirement for health assessments for night shift workers – and fair number of other criteria and requirement relating to working hours. Some workers, like those in Transport, have a separate set of Regulations to adher to. If you are not sure how WTR applies to your workers, then we urge you to get it touch.

Breaches of Health and Safety legislation as well as employment legislation is the risk for ignoring this legislation. Give us a call at the office on 0845 463 3231 (or email us and we’ll email you back) and we’ll make sure your working patterns and documentation are as they should be.

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