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Working Time and Working conditions for Temporary Agency Workers - EU guide

10 June 2008
by eub2 -- last modified 13 June 2008

EU Member States reached political agreement in the early hours of 10 June 2008 on the long-standing issues of the European Union Working Time Directive and the Temporary Agency Work Directive at the Employment and Social Affairs Council in Luxembourg.


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The main points of agreement in the EU Working Time Directive are:

  • on-call time to be split into active and inactive on-call time. Active on-call time to be counted as working time
  • inactive on-call time may not be counted as rest time and can be counted as working time if national laws or social partners agree
  • standard maximum limit remains at 48 working hours per week unless an individual worker chooses otherwise (opt-out)
  • new protective limit (cap) for workers who opt out: maximum working week of 60 hours unless social partners agree otherwise
  • new cap for workers who opt-out if inactive on-call time is counted as working time: maximum working week of 65 hours
  • the cap protects all workers employed for longer than 10 weeks with one employer
  • opt-out only under certain conditions, such as: no signature during first month of employment, no victimisation for not signing or withdrawing opt-out, employers must keep records on working hours of opted-out workers.

The main points of agreement in the EU Temporary Agency Workers Directive:

  • equal treatment as of day one for temporary agency workers as well as regular workers in terms of pay, maternity leave and leave
  • possibility to derogate from this through collective agreements and through agreements between social partners at national level
  • temporary agency workers to be informed about permanent employment opportunities in the user enterprise
  • equal access to collective facilities (canteen, child care facilities, transport service)
  • Member States have to improve temporary agency workers access to training and child care facilities in periods BETWEEN their assignments so to increase their employability
  • Member States have to ensure penalties for non-compliance by temporary agencies and enterprises.

Background:

The Directive amending the existing directive on Working Time (2003/88/EC) has been on the table since 2005. Many Member States are in breach of the legislation as interpreted by the European Court of Justice (Simap/J├Ąger ruling). According to these rulings, active and in-active on-call time must be counted as working time. Also, the new text significantly improves the protection for workers who sign an opt-out. Finally, it reintroduces a reference to conciliation between working life and family life.

8 million workers in the EU are temporary agency workers and numbers are increasing. In March 2002 the European Commission adopted a proposal to create a level playing field for temporary agency workers across the EU. Several presidencies have sought to find a solution. Following a recent agreement between social partners in the UK, the Slovenian Presidency decided to put forward a new compromise text which has achieved political agreement.

The Council Common Positions now have to be sent to the European Parliament for a second opinion, as foreseen by the co-decision procedure.

Source: European Commission