The European Working Time Directive is a directive from the Council of Europe to protect the health and safety of workers in the European Union. It lays down minimum requirements in relation to working hours, rest periods, annual leave and working arrangements for night workers.
The Directive was enacted into UK law as the Working Time Regulations, which took effect from 1st October 1998.
The Working Time Directive has applied to the vast majority of employees in EU member states since 1998, including consultants and doctors outside training. In 2004, the WTD provisions extended to junior doctors, whose maximum average working hours had to be reduced to 48 hours from August 2009.
No. The Working Time Directive cannot be ignored. It is a legal requirement under EU and domestic UK legislation (the Working Time Regulations 1998, as amended). Employers are obliged to comply with all of its requirements, and employees entitled to the protections it affords.
The Directive does not allow for any organisation to defer from the legislation in the case of emergencies or exceptional circumstances. It does however allow a degree of flexibility around areas such as breaks, night working, reference period and the option to opt out of the hour’s limit.
All employees must have an appropriate rest break. A worker is entitled to an uninterrupted unpaid break of 20 minutes when daily working time is more than 6 hours (30 minutes in 4 ½ hours for young workers) or 30 minutes for every 4 hours worked in accordance with New Deal Regulations (for juniors doctors only).
All staff within the Trust are entitled to an unpaid break of 30 minutes when their daily working time is more than six hours. Exceptionally, this may not be possible where this could adversely affect the requirements of the service. The requirement is for a break in actual working time, which must not be taken at either the start or end, of a working day.
It is a dual responsibility between employee and employer to ensure that rest breaks are taken. If an employee is concerned that their breaks are not being taken appropriately they should raise this with their line manager.
Yes, however a doctor should disclose this information to both organisations they are going to be working for. If the additional hours worked are going to result in more than 48 hours per week then the doctor must complete an EWTD Opt Out Form.
A doctor may wish to opt out of EWTD 48 hour limit. This must be voluntary and the organisation’s EWTD Opt Out Form should be completed. If a doctor signs the agreement they have the right to cancel the agreement at any time by providing written confirmation of their intention.
Junior Doctors Monitoring is essential for the organisation to ensure that all rotas are EWTD and New Deal compliant. It is stipulated within the Junior Doctors Contract of Employment that this is a contractual requirement.
All doctors are indemnified by the organisation for all contracted clinical activities undertaken on behalf of the Organisation. This includes those additional hours (including any hours worked under an ‘EWTD Opt Out Form’ agreed between the doctor and the organisation).