No prosecutions over working hours rules

The Health and Safety Executive did not prosecute a single employer for breaches of the new working time regulations in the first year of the law. And only two employers were found to be in breach of the regulations by the HSE, which is charged with policing the law. The two companies, food manufacturers Toft […]

The Health and Safety Executive did not prosecute a single employer for breaches of the new working time regulations in the first year of the law.

And only two employers were found to be in breach of the regulations by the HSE, which is charged with policing the law.

The two companies, food manufacturers Toft Foods and Oldfield Quality Foods, were issued with improvement orders. These set a date by which they must comply with the law.

The figures have raised fresh concerns about the ability of the HSE to enforce the regulations. It has only seven officers to investigate possible breaches.

The HSE received 18,300 enquiries from employers and staff last year according to its own figures, which has raised questions about its effectiveness in policing the regulations.

`There is not much chance of being caught unless a union takes action against you,’ said one human resources director.

A total of 228 complaints were received in the past year, of which 152 had been investigated. Enquiries into the remainder are ongoing.

Toft Foods of Devizes, Wiltshire was found to be in breach of regulations on the 48-hour working week and provision of health assessments for night workers. Oldfield Quality Foods was also found to have breached the maximum hours rule and restrictions on night workers.

A TUC spokeswoman said the figures demonstrated the need for more resources to be put into monitoring employees’ working time.

Employers are still waiting for the outcome of trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers’ amendments to the regulations.

He announced in July that `voluntary unpaid’ overtime would be discounted when calculating the number of hours worked.

John Robinson writes for Personnel Today magazine