By David Shrimpton
The hospitality industry is ill-prepared for the introduction of the Working Time Directive and many employers are not even aware that it comes into force on 1 October, says a leading lawyer.
"There's so much legislation on the go just now and Working Time has been on the back burner for so many years, people probably think it's gone away," said Antonia McAlindin, who advises Scottish & Newcastle.
The directive's best-known clause is the introduction of a 48-hour working week. Some flexibility is permitted, but only if employers keep accurate records of hours worked and get the agreement of staff.
"It's going to cause more headaches than people think," McAlindin added. "People are unaware of the need to keep records and to have individual signed agreements. We really need to get a move on."
McAlindin was speaking at the Institute of Personnel and Development's (IPD) annual conference on employment law, held in London last week.
Her comments came as Garry Hawkes, president of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), made a belated call to the Government to delay the introduction of the directive. He wants businesses to be given more time to put the necessary recording systems and workforce agreements in place.
"I hope the legislators will take on board our concerns, as a seven-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day industry, about the impact of this ill-thought-out imposition from Brussels," he told the BHA's annual lunch.
But there seems little chance of the Government putting back the legislation. The directive should have come into force in November 1996 but was delayed by a legal challenge from the Conservative administration.
And at the IPD conference, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, confirmed Labour's commitment to implement the directive. "It will help to tackle the macho, long-hours culture that blights so many people's experience of working life," he said.