By David Shrimpton
Several leading figures from the hospitality industry are putting their weight firmly behind the European Union Working Time Directive, set to be included in UK law early next year.
Until now the directive has drawn sharp criticism from the. Many employers condemn elements of the directive, such as the requirement to provide a daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours, or the need to ensure night shifts are limited to eight hours.
But now the European Catering Association (ECA), which represents more than 400 senior managers in contract catering, has welcomed the directive.
"This will help make the catering industry, particularly in hotels and restaurants, a lot more attractive to young people," said ECA national chairman Roger Davis. "It will tackle the Dickensian system of split shifts, which makes it difficult for people to enjoy any sort of normal social or family life."
Also supporting the directive is Don Irwin, chairman of the Craft Guild of Chefs, which has about 2,000 UK members.
"Anything that will improve the lot of working chefs, we're all in favour of," he said. "It will help attract the younger element into the profession."
The guild is to hold a discussion on the directive next month.
One chef who rang Caterer to express his backing for the directive was David Alexander, head chef at Bistro 311 in Mountnessing, Essex. "A lot of people in the industry are obliged to work far too many hours," he said. "This is a step in the right direction."
Although the 11-hour break might be difficult to implement, Mr Alexander thought it would be beneficial. "You'll get lower staff turnover and a more consistent product," he said.
According to a European Court of Justice ruling, the UK Government should have implemented the directive by the end of last week. However, the Government claims it has not yet had time to incorporate the provisions into UK law.
It is now consulting with industry before introducing legislation. This process is likely to take two or three months, so it is probable that businesses will have to ensure they are meeting the directive's requirements by next spring.