Scottish Labour Party has called for a maximum of 48 hours in a working week!

Scottish Labour Party have called for a maximum of 48 hours in a working week – Is this good or bad?

As part of Scottish Labours new Industrial Strategy, Kezia Dugdale has sought support for a complete ban on employees engaging in more than 48 hours in one working week.

The Scottish Conservative Party have responded to this arguing that no one has the right to “dictate” how many hours individuals should work.

Within the proposals, the Scottish Labour Party argue that powers over employment and health and safety legislation following Brexit could be used to overturn the UK’s opt out of the Working Time Directive which is EU derived and limits the working week to 48 hours.

They have suggested that these proposals will boost productivity in the workplace and that NHS workers will gain the most benefits from it.

In reference to the 250,000 Scottish workers who currently work more than 48 hours a week, the proposals state: “Too many people experience long working hours, job monotony, management by stress and over work.”

Kezia Dugdale who is the leader of the Scottish Labour Party adds further that the Government ought to “consider ending current opt-outs which fail to deliver on our ambition for an inclusive economy.”

The proposals made by Scottish Labour have been slammed and criticized that in the event that working hours are slashed, those who are on low paid wages and who work under a self-employed status will be hit the hardest.

Dean Lockhart, who is the Shadow Secretary for the Scottish Conservatives states “no-one should be forced to work those kinds of hours if they don’t want to or simply can’t.”

“However, many people – particularly those running their own business – do want to, and will be appalled at the idea of Labour trying to tell them what to do.”

“In addition, others may need the cash working those hours bring, for a variety of reasons. Labour simply do not have the right to dictate to those people what hours they should and shouldn’t be working. These restrictions have been tried elsewhere and they’ve should to damage the economy.”

The Working Time Directive

As it stands, the Working Time Directive/ Working Time Regulations ensures that employees cannot be made to work more than 48 hours a week on average.

In addition, the Working Time Directive regulates patterns of work and holidays as well as rest periods on a daily/weekly basis.

Further, the Working Time Directive ensures the health and working hours of shift workers is covered within the regulations.

For general workers, the Working Time Directive administers the right to:

– A limit of 48 hours a week on average

– Paid holidays of 5.6 weeks annually

– In any 24-hour period, a worker must be given a rest break of at least 11 hours

– 20-minute break if the employee is working more than six hours in one day

Exceptions to the rule

There are some exceptions to this rule. The law states that you may have to work more than 48 hours on average a week if you work in a job:

– Where 24-hour staffing is required

– In the armed forces, emergency services or police

– In security or surveillance

– As a domestic servant in a private household

– Where working time is not measured and you are in control, E.G. Managing Directors with control over decisions. (Sourced from Direct Gov)


Individuals do have the opportunity to work more than 48 hours a week, this is otherwise known as ‘opting out’.

An employer may request from an employee that they choose to opt out, however, they cannot terminate their employment or treat them unfairly should the employee refuse.

If the employee does not belong to one of the groups of workers who are prohibited from opting out, they may make the decision to exclude themselves from the Working Time Regulations. For example, they are required to work on a major project that depends on them working overtime to meet the deadline, they can choose to opt-out for this period of time.

Who can’t opt-out?

– Anyone under 18 years old

– Anyone who is responsible for operating ships or boats, airlines and heavy load vehicles

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