Concerns over Working Time Regulations take off

DHUGThe need to keep a proper check on time management was dramatically thrust into the spotlight last week with news that MEPs have blocked attempts to regulate the working hours of airline pilots. It followed revelations that more than half of pilots who took part in a British Airline Pilots Association (BAPA) survey had admitted to having fallen asleep while in charge of a plane; with 84% saying they felt their abilities had been compromised by tiredness.

The BAPA union called on MEPs to put a halt to plans by the European Commission to introduce new rules that would have cleared the way for pilots to land a plane after being awake for 22 hours, as well as being able to work seven early starts in a row rather than the current norm of three. From a passenger’s perspective this will undoubtedly come as a huge sigh of relief and one where the importance of keeping a proper tab on time management is only too clear. But while health and safety issues are undoubtedly vital to any organisation, they are not the only reasons why business leaders need to ensure they have a good workforce management strategy.

John Lewis found out to its cost that not keeping a close check on work hours can come back to bite you, and bite you hard. The much-loved retailer discovered it was in breach of Working Time Regulations by inadvertently underpaying its staff working Sundays and Bank Holidays over a period of seven years. It subsequently agreed to pay £40m owed to those staff that were affected.

These regulations, part of the European Working Time Directive, determine the maximum weekly working time, pattern of work and holidays, plus the daily and weekly rest periods. While they were undoubtedly set with good intentions in mind, they’ve been described by employment experts as “complicated”, and John Lewis is unlikely to be the only one caught out by them.

These cases are stark reminders of the many challenges that HR departments face, and shining examples of why it is imperative for management teams to maintain a firm grip on working hours. Central to that quest is having an integrated strategy that can tackle workforce management issues head on, along with having the right tools to ensure that the right people are in the right place at the right time.

To my mind, achieving this success is down to three key components. Firstly, HR teams need to understand what needs to be measured, and that the right parameters are set so that that data on working patterns can be measured and analysed in accordance with strategy plans. Secondly, the right technology needs to be in place, to automatically highlight any potential issues before they bite, including things like legislative issues. And last but not least, any workforce management system must be fully integrated so that time and attendance records, for example, can communicate and feed directly into payroll systems.

With these three factors in place, not only will an effective and efficient workforce management strategy benefit employers and employees, it will also make the job of the HR team itself a whole lot easier.

By David Hughes, Marketing Director Crown Computing

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