EU Court Stands by Rule Limiting Long Work Days

European Union rules entitle workers to 11 consecutive hours of rest. Different contracts for the same employer won’t change that.

People in a tram in downtown Rome on Monday. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

(CN) — A worker must have at least 11 hours of rest during a work day even if she is doing work connected to more than one contract for the same employer, Europe’s highest court decided on Wednesday.

The European Court of Justice ruling came in a case involving European Union grant money that went to experts at Romania’s University of Economic Studies in Bucharest.

In 2012 and 2013, the experts filed timesheets exceeding the EU’s rules that say employees cannot work more than 13 hours in a single day. The experts justified their longer days by adding hours related to different contracts they had with the university.

The Luxembourg-based court said that was improper, however, because the various contracts needed to be taken as a whole when it came to applying the minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours.

A report by Romania’s Ministry of National Education about financial irregularities at the university brought the long work days to light in June 2018. The ministry said it wasn’t going to pay for the exceptionally long days, an amount that came to about $3,300.

In 2003, the EU laid out general labor rules in its Working Time Directive. Under that directive, workers are entitled to 11 hours of rest a day, at least 24 hours of uninterrupted rest in a week and at least four weeks of paid annual leave. The rules also limit night shifts to an average of eight hours a day and provide free health checkups and other benefits for night workers. The rules allow for some exceptions.

In its ruling, the court said “it is not possible to satisfy the requirement” of the directive “if those rest periods are examined separately for each contract that binds that worker to his employer.”

The court also pointed out that the limits on working hours is enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.


Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

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