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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 11:59 GMT
Long hours a 'national disgrace'
Tired man
Working a 48-hour week puts a strain on family life
Nearly four million people in the UK are working more than 48 hours a week as Britain ignores European limits, figures show.

The long hours culture has been dubbed a "national disgrace" by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Other countries produce more, earn more and work far shorter hours

John Monks
TUC general secretary
It is calling for tougher regulation of working hours by the European Union.

Managers and professional staff work the longest hours, according to the TUC report released on Monday.

One in 25 men are work at least 60 hours a week, it found.

A total of 350,000 more people are working a 48-hour week compared with a decade ago.


TUC general secretary John Monks said: "Britain's long-hours culture is a national disgrace.

TUC general secretary John Monks
John Monks: Give workers shorter hours
"It leads to stress, ill health and family strains."

While in the UK workers work an average 43.6 hours the European average is 40.3.

In France the average is just 38.9 hours.

This is despite the European Working Time Directive of 1998 which introduced a 48-hour working week limit.

Certain occupations were exempt, including the media and healthcare.

Opt-out clause

The UK also has an opt-out to allow employers to work longer hours if they want to.

1 in 25 men work more than 60hrs a week
1 in 10 men work more than 55hrs a week
1 in 4 men work more than 48hrs a week
The TUC hopes this will be banned when changes are made to the directive next year.

But the business group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) wants workers to continue to have the choice.

Mr Monks said: "Half the country is caught in a vicious circle of low pay, low productivity and long hours, with the other half trapped in their offices and battling ever growing in-trays.

"Other countries produce more, earn more and work far shorter hours.

"We should, and can, do the same if employers, unions and government work together."

His view was echoed by Mary MacLeod, chief executive of the National Family and Parenting Institute.

Working hours
UK: 43.6 hours
France: 38.9 hours
EU average: 40.3 hours
She said there were always headlines about parents not spending enough time with their children.

But she continued: "Parents in the UK are having to work the longest hours in Europe to make ends meet, returning home stressed and exhausted."

The CBI's deputy director general John Cridland said: "Managerial workers often work longer hours because they want to.

"Operational staff often work longer hours because they are paid for it.

"Neither group will thank the Government for intervening. They don't want a nanny state."

The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"Most people say the need to work longer hours to pay the bills"
Julie Hurst, Work Life Balance Centre
"These extra hours are not doing us any good"

Talking PointFORUM
Ask TUC experts on Monday at 1415 GMT
See also:

05 Mar 01 | Business
Long hours harm sex lives
19 Sep 00 | Health
Lack of sleep 'risks lives'
05 Sep 00 | UK
All work and no play
13 Jul 00 | Business
Work hard, play optional
21 Jan 02 | Business
Time to quit for the family?
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