A French-style cap on the length of the working week has been rejected by a study, commissioned by the Labour party, into ways of giving employees more leisure time. The report, by the cross-bench peer Robert Skidelsky, found a blanket limit on working hours was unrealistic and undesirable, and instead proposed a sector-by-sector approach. “Millions are working long hours while others can’t get the security of the regular hours they need to get by. I’d like to thank Lord Skidelsky for his meticulously researched report which we will study and draw on when looking at how we can reduce the typical working week without loss of pay.” The average UK full-timer worked 42.5 hours a week in 2018 against an EU average of 41.2 hours, while 17.1% of employees and 25.9% of the self-employed worked more than 45 hours. It said a legislated, economy-wide limit, as the French imposed in 1998 with laws capping the working week at 35 hours, should not be replicated in the UK. “Capping working hours nationwide, on the lines of France’s 35-hour working week, is not realistic or even desirable, because any cap needs to be adapted to the needs of different sectors.” Skidelsky’s report said the state should take the lead in moving the economy towards shorter working hours. Pressure from below for a shorter working week would not be sufficient due to the weakening of trade unions.
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