Introduced in the UK in September to protect workers from excessively long hours, the directive lays down a maximum working week of 48 hours averaged over 17 weeks.
But Andersens has taken advantage of provisions allowing individual workers to agree to work longer hours. It has written to staff asking them to provide written agreement they are willing to opt out of the directive. Andersens this week denied it was encouraging excessive overtime.
Human resources director Judith Hardy said: ‘The reason for taking this route is to enable us to plan and manage the delivery of client service without having to always refer back to the framework of the regulations.’ She said employees who refused to sign the agreement would not suffer any detriment, but did not comment on how employees had done so.
Deloitte & Touche said it did not feel an opt-out of health and safety legislation was appropriate.
Ernst & Young said it had put in place measures to ensure staff did not work more than 48 hours a week over a prolonged period.
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