RPC Employment partner comments on UK Government's plans to scrap 48 hour week

Published on 20 January 2021

Commenting on potential changes to the UK's labour rules, Employment Partner Kelly Thomson at the international law firm RPC commented:

"If the Government dilutes working time restrictions, UK employers will have to make an important choice. That choice depends on how the economic and social consequences of that dilution will influence the employment market. Some employers may decide to voluntarily honour working time limits, believing the benefits to their people and themselves outweigh that of apparent flexibility.  

Safeguarding a person's working hours speaks directly to risk management and, also, career opportunity. After all, how productive are employees working to their limits and what operational risks flow from that?

By providing an organisational floor of rights - to replace one removed by the state – those businesses, choosing security and availability of job opportunities over financial flexibility, may better succeed in the war for talent

Without working time limits, we may see increased pressure on the public purse, the very thing the Government wishes to avoid. Workers who are worried they cannot balance working hours demands with their own wellbeing and caring responsibilities will feel less secure in their jobs. Without that security, do workers spend less within our economy? Also, if workers, especially vulnerable workers or those with caring responsibilities, leave as consequence of new demands, what is the consequence of that decision on our society and economy? How does this social and economic cost compare to the perceived financial benefit of flexibility?

The health, particularly the mental health of workers, is an issue all companies are seeking to address. Workers unable to balance competing demands, flowing from the additional pressures of work, may, ultimately, leave the workforce. The worker's health may contribute to that decision. Will the State step in to shoulder any consequential economic burden? The Government will not be able to avoid taking a position on these difficult questions.

The pandemic has put into stark relief the enormous challenges for many in juggling work and caring responsibilities. Campaigners are already calling for legislation to beef up the furlough arrangements to give individuals a legal right to be furloughed to care for children, an option which currently rests in the employer's discretion."

To view Kelly Thomson's profile, click here.