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Thursday, August 26, 1999 Published at 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK

Business: The Economy

Working hours changes condemned

Workers do not always get to leave on time

Union leaders are urging the government to rethink planned changes to working hours regulations, as a report shows UK employees are the most overworked in Europe.

The BBC's Liz George: Workers are urged to take more responsibility for the hours they work
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is asking ministers to call talks between employers and unions to reach agreement on difficulties which have emerged in the Working Time Directive which came into force last year.

The government has announced that it intends to change the directive to cut red-tape - allowing more opt-outs for workers and employers.

It says the changes will make the directive more workable, without watering down protection.

But the TUC is warning that many white-collar workers will be left without protection, even though they work some of the longest hours.

Longest hours

TUC general secretary John Monks said: "Too many workplaces are gripped by a long-hours culture.

"Nothing is ever said, but the pressure of work, office culture and job insecurity makes clear that employees have little choice but to put in extra work."

A report published by the TUC on Thursday showed Britons worked the longest hours in Europe.

UK workers average 44 hours a week, the report said, compared to 39 in Holland, Belgium and Denmark, and 40 in France and Germany.

The TUC said Citizens Advice Bureaux across the UK has been inundated with inquiries from workers pressured into working longer hours.

The Confederation of British Industry said the changes to the directive were necessary.

A spokesman said: "The directive is a real headache for firms, costing time and money.

"The government has accepted the need for changes, which has led to the removal of some of the more unnecessary burdens."

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