Paolo Pelissero

Allargamento europeo e regole comunitarie in materia di orario di lavoro: tenuta delle tutele o race to the bottom?

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Aim of this essay is to examine the effects of the Working Time Directive. The author's opinion is that the role played by the Wtd in ensuring a satisfactory protection of the health and safety of workers has been modest until today: he highlights the weaknesses of national implementation measures (the United Kingdom, Denmark and Italy are chosen as useful samples). Some hints that the Wtd could have a more profound impact on national labour laws can be desumed from the rulings of the European Court of Justice, whose interpretative attitude emphasizes the aim of protection of health and safety, which results in some provisions of the Wtd being held to be directly effective. On the other hand, it must be noticed that Ecj's broad interpretation of the definition of "working time" (see Jaeger, case C-151/02) has provoked many States (France, Spain, Germany, to name but a few) into taking advantage of the individual opt-out provision (Article 18 of the Wtd), which was to be reviewed by the end of 2003. The European Commission is taking steps to re-examine the Wtd: following a Europe-wide consultation earlier this year, the Commission has lately adopted a proposal for a directive amending key aspects of the existing Wtd (the provisions on the opt-out and on derogations from the reference period for calculating average weekly working time, but also the much discussed Ecj case law on the definition of working time), in order to achieve a difficult balance between flexibility and protection of workers' health and safety.

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