Welsh Presbyterians back calls for a 48 hour working week in Britain

By staff writers
April 22, 2009

The Presbyterian Church of Wales has written to the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, urging the UK government to end its opt-out from a European directive which limits the working week to 48 hours, saying that a long-hours culture is damaging society as a whole.

Trade unions and NGOs concerned with vulnerable people and those on low wages have also been pushing hard on this issue.

Since the premiership of Tony Blair, the UK has resisted encouragement to adopt the European Working Time Directive. It argues people should be given the option of working more hours if they want to.

Critics say this is a licence for employers to exploit people or threaten them with job losses in a time of economic vulnerability.

The European Parliament has been applying renewed pressure on the UK government and eight other opted-out countries in the past few weeks.

The Rev Ifan Roberts, General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, has this week voiced concern for the welfare of the 460,000 people in the UK who, according to the Trades Union Congress, work more than 60 hours a week.

“The balance between work, family and social life is a matter of concern because long hours at work can be detrimental to health. The proposed change would also reduce the pressure on families,” he declared.

Roberts adds: “This debate comes at a particularly important time. The present economic situation is bound to cause tensions within families as workers come under extra pressure to work longer hours. Now is the time to consider changes to working practices so that conditions improve as the economy emerges from this downturn.

The Presbyterian leader says that "the unregulated economy has let people down and hurt and damaged many, so there is a need for change.”

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