One of the more irksome of European regulations is that which governs how many hours a week a person can work, devised no doubt by a civil servant on 35 hours a week flexi-time.
But it makes life very difficult for small businesses trying to respond to the demand of their customers.
In this day and age, manufacturers in particular, are producing goods for their customers at very short notice to win orders. This presents a real problem when an employer has to keep in mind the restriction placed on the number of hours an employee can work. The employee is willing, the company needs that person’s special skills, but European law does not allow it. All sorts of ingenious ways have to be used to get round the problem.
However, for the medical profession, these employment laws could be creating major problems in the years to come. I recently had a very interesting discussion with a surgeon with decades of experience in accident and emergency departments in Midland hospitals, and who is still practising.
As a hospital governor, I have been concerned for some time about the restrictions placed on junior hospital doctors who are not allowed to work for more than 48 hours a week, for they are missing great chunks of training time and ward experience. The surgeon takes exactly the same view.
He said that in his day, a hundred hours a week was more the norm, and by working these hours, junior doctors gained invaluable experience that would assist them as they progressed in their careers.
He feels that the medical profession will be lacking the experience and practice that his generation accrued, and it is inevitable that patients could suffer in the years to come. As with every other profession and activity, practice makes perfect, and lack of experience will be a handicap.
These laws are badly in need of overhaul, and need some common sense injected. Small business owners in particular, already work well over the specified limits, they have to in order that their businesses survive.
Realistically, all of us have to work more than the 48 hours specified, ask any housewife. Many of us enjoy our chosen occupations, and interference by Euroland is not required.
However, for the medical profession and their patients, change is required now.
* Russell Luckock is chairman of Birmingham pressings firm AE Harris