Doctors' Working Lives News

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Improving Doctors' Working Lives

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Changes to EWTD - European Social and Affairs Council agrees revisions, but they still have to get through the European Parliament 
EU social policy and employment ministers have agreed by a qualified majority on a proposal to amend the Working Time Directive. This is only one stage of the agreement process, and this still has to be agreed by the European Parliament. The main points of the proposal are:

* "Inactive time", ie time spent resident but not working, has been accepted as a new category in between work and rest. It will not count as work for the purposes of the 48 hour limit (unless otherwise agreed by collective agreement or national legislation - some countries have already said they will legislate for it to remain as work). However, whilst this time will not count as "work", it won't count as "rest" under EWTD either. This means that 24 hour resident on call will still be impossible as it will not meet the 11 hour rest requirement. However, doctors who are required to be resident on shifts, but who are resting for much of the night period, may be able to increase their daytime activity.

* The opt-out will be retained, but capped - at 65 hours per week in countries where all duty counts as work, and at 60 hours per week if inactive duty is not counted as work. There will also be heavier restrictions and provisions as to the use of the opt out - workers cannot opt out during their first month, will not be penalised for refusing to opt out, and employers must keep records of opted-out workers' hours.

* Compensatory rest may be taken within a reasonable period, to be determined by legislation, convention or collective agreement.

NHS Employers has a good summary of the proposed revision. However, note that this has been strongly opposed by the unions and has yet to get through the European Parliament, so it is by no means certain that this latest effort will resolve the situation. For more details check out reports in EIRO, the Guardian, the Independent and the BMJ amongst others. Also note the press release from the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) which opposes the proposed amendments.

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