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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.


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.


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