ETUC warns on interpretation of Working Time ruling

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) today warned that yesterday’s European Court of Justice judgement on the Working Time Directive does NOT give employers a green light to make workers work for 12 days before they get a day of rest.

Commenting on the case, Esther Lynch, ETUC Confederal Secretary said “This is a complicated judgement, even by CJEU standards. Employers should not think that this ruling gives them a green light to tell their workers they need to work for 12 days before they will get their day of rest. The European Commission had speculated that this might be the case in its interpretive guidance. The Court was clear that each seven day period must include a rest day. Specifically the ruling states that the 35 hour rest period must be ‘provided within each seven-day period’.”

The Court also stressed the need for Member States to keep health and safety objectives uppermost when determining what constitutes an adequate rest period. This means factors such as the nature of the work have to be taken into consideration when determining what is adequate rest, and it is clear that for some workers a shorter working time will be needed.

One problem highlighted by the ruling is that it may mean that workers never get the same day off. This problem was originally created by a change to the working time directive in 1996 when the principle that the weekly rest should include a Sunday was removed. This has had an unintended effect on the structure and rhythm of working and family life. This is helpful neither for society at large nor for the individual worker. Increasingly research is establishing a positive impact on workers’ health when they get to share their day off with the rest of their family.

The ETUC will warn all national trade unions across Europe about the judgement and urge unions to ensure there is no misinterpretation by employers.

For more on the case see