The 35 hour week debate
As usual, in the run up to elections, labor relations feature prominently as one of the most crucial aspects under discussion in the political arena.
The latest (although not the newest) issue is how many hours there should be in the working week, raised by some political agenda which has proposed a 35 hour working week.
It didn’t take long for politicians to react and some groups have manifestly rejected the proposal in a debate which has long divided those who advocate the contrasting positions of quality of life, growth in employment and competition.
The European position is governed by the Working Time Directive (Directive 2003/88/EC), which, as usual, does not contain any specific prohibition beyond a mention in article 6.b) which states that “the average working time for each seven-day period, including overtime, does not exceed 48 hours”. A provision which is clearly far removed from the dilemma presented here (but which nevertheless served to rebut Slovenia’s proposal to increase the working week to 65 hours thanks to the famed Cercas Report).
In turn, article 35.1 of the Spanish Workers’ Statute following a collective bargaining procedure on the duration of the working week has established a maximum limit to the ordinary working day as an average of 40 hours per week of the actual work per year.
And this calculation is extremely relevant as according to the most recent data published by the INE, for the second quarter of 2014, the average working week agreed during that period in Spain was at around 34.3 hours, although the working day actually worked dropped by 3.5% (1.1 hours) with respect to the same period in 2013, due to the fact that it included Easter week.
Obviously, the difficulty in reducing the limit of maximum hours impacts on several variables and not just those concerned with legal and labor issues, but also strategic-business aspects.
As a result it is crucial to be aware of any possible movements regarding this issues in future, and in particular the attitudes of social agents given their influence and role in the collective bargaining process.
Garrigues Labor Department