Unhealthy option

11th June 2004 at 01:00
At a recent job interview I was asked whether I would be willing to opt out of the European Union working time directive. I did not respond positively as I value my free time.

Conversely, I was part of an interview panel last year when, during a break, a senior colleague put it to me that one of the candidates would not be up to what he termed the "out-of-contract hours". He went on: "All that talk of bike riding and hill walking, he's a health freak and we know how they all clock watch." When I retorted that good health meant fewer sick days, he dismissed this as "balls". Having responded as I did at my own interview, I am left feeling that we must all be prepared to work what hours are required or the job will go to someone who will.

Many of us routinely work more than the 48 hours and feel that we have no choice but to do so. The colleague whose comments you cited would of course have been under similar working pressure from those above him. It is not surprising then that he would perpetuate this culture of long hours. If things are to change then an example has to be set from the top. If colleges are really Investors in People, as so many cite on their shiny plaques, then they should consider their workers long-term health more carefully.

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