The Working Hours Act (ATW) contains complex regulations in the field of working hours and break times. Especially when it comes to irregular work times, such as nightshifts and on-call shift work. So it doesn’t take much to break the rules under the Working Hours Act. In fact some organisations do it deliberately, while others don’t even know they are in violation of the Working Hours Act. That is why audits by the SZW Inspectorate (formally the Labour Inspectorate) often lead to (huge) fines.
It doesn’t take much to be in violation
The following example shows just how easy it is to be in violation. When an organisation has maintenance engineers working in the field, they are the public face of that organisation. They are always on the road fixing breakdowns and carrying out onsite maintenance for clients. And when they get there, they often just keep on working until the problem is fixed, which of course is greatly appreciated by both the employer and the client. However, by the time you’ve added up all the hours the engineers have worked, plus all the time they were on the road, you often find they have spent more than 50 hours at work over a five-day period. If they have also been scheduled to work a standby shift as well (on-call shift work) – during which the whole standby period is treated as work time – then there is a big chance that the rules under the Working Hours Act have been violated.
Smart interpretation of the ATW: lower overheads and no fines
The Working Hours Act lays down rules to ensure safe and healthy working practices are followed by both employers and employees. Although the main aim is to make sure everyone has a long and healthy working life, being in compliance can also help to reduce overheads in the long term. In addition, it means your organisation won’t have to pay huge fines for being in violation of the Working Hours Act.