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Architects being ‘pressured’ into opting out of Working Time Directive

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Architects are coming under pressure from employers to opt out of the 48-hour working week, according to an AJ survey

In the UK, employees can only legally work a maximum of 48 hours per week, as set out in the EU Working Time Directive, unless they choose to opt out.

The AJ’s recent Working in Architecture Survey, completed by more than 3,000 professionals, revealed a large proportion – 23.7 per cent – had chosen to sign away their right to the limit.

While employers can ask their staff to opt out, they cannot sack or treat staff unfairly who refuse to do so.

Yet many architects said employers had left them no choice. Writing anonymously, many even wrote they were told they would not get the job unless they signed the clause.

’There was little “choice” – you opt out if you want the job,’ one said, while another wrote: ’It is a mandatory part of our contract; I was unable to accept the job without exempting myself from this directive.’

One respondent said: ’I was not given a choice. It was included in my contract and I was told I could not remove it or make it separate.’

’Everyone is pressurised to opt out,’ wrote another.

RIBA’s executive director of professional services, Adrian Dobson, said it was ‘concerning’ that employees might be coming under pressure to opt out and reminded practices of their legal obligations.

’A healthy work/life balance is vital to our wellbeing, and the number of hours worked should not be a measure of success or a barrier to progression.

’We require employers to follow best practice and support their employees, and I encourage anyone who has been pressurised to opt out of a 48 hour week to seek legal help.

’RIBA members have access to 15 minutes of free legal advice from specialist practice consultants.’

The survey also revealed that 55 per cent (1,117 respondents) said they worked between five and 15 hours over their contracted hours every week.

According to the government’s website, employees can cancel an opt-out agreement at any point, even if it is part of their employment contract.

If you have been put under pressure to opt out of the 48-hour week, please contact ella.jessel@emap.com

  • 11 Comments

Readers' comments (11)

  • To add to what I said above - this is precisely the purpose of unions. The very reason for their existence. Architects are stuck in the mindset of the 50s where they all see themselves as the artist-master of the worksite, when in reality they're earning less than people flipping burgers and brickies and working enormous amounts of overtime. We are not masters of anything, we are exploited employees. Except unlike the brickie or burger flipper, we aren't smart enough to leave on time and think ourselves deeply heroic when doing all-nighters for competitions with no hope of remuneration

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