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Agriculture: Working Hours

Volume 490: debated on Monday 30 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make an assessment of the likely effects of the implementation of the European Working Time Directive on the numbers of seasonal workers required by farmers to assist them with harvesting. (265328)

The Working Time Directive has been implemented since 1998 and we are not aware that it has had any noticeable impact on the requirements of the agricultural industry for seasonal workers.

Revisions to the Working Time Directive are currently being negotiated in Europe. In these discussions, the UK Government are strongly supporting retention of the individual's right to opt-out of the 48-hour working week, an important flexibility used by workers in many sectors, including agriculture. We, along with many other member states, believe that workers should have the right to work longer hours if they choose to do so and have pressed this point successfully to Council during the negotiations.