Thursday

29th Feb 2024

Commission pressed to protect work-free Sundays

A third of euro-deputies have signed an appeal urging the European Commission to include work-free Sundays into an upcoming review of EU rules on working time, with the responsible commissioner pledging to "take into account" these views in his proposals due this autumn.

"Currently, it is up to member states to define Sunday as their weekly resting day, and in doing so, by taking into consideration cultural, ethnic and religious diversity," EU employment commissioner Laszlo Andor told MEPs during a conference organised by the parliament's centre-right group in support of work-free Sundays.

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  • Having the day off on Sundays should be enshrined in EU law, say some MEPs (Photo: EUobserver)

He went on to highlight that "many argue" against work-free Sundays being regulated by Brussels, deploying the EU principle of "subsidiarity" that requires that decisions should be taken at the closest government level to the citizen as appropriate.

"What I can promise today is that the commission will consider all contributions in the review of the working time directive," Mr Andor pledged.

A previous attempt to specifically refer to Sunday in the EU rules on working time was defeated in 1996 by the European Court of Justice, which found insufficient links to the health and safety of workers – the main topic of the regulation.

Studies have since proven there is a positive impact on the safety, health and social life of workers to have a day off together with other people, rather than just any random weekday.

The main argument invoked by backers of the work-free Sunday was a religious one, despite the new studies.

"State and society need to provide opportunities for people to practice their beliefs. If it's a Judaic society, it's the Sabbath, if it's Christian, it's Sunday," German centre-right MEP Elmar Brok said. He also stressed the need to ensure that family members have a common free day to spend together.

Opponents of an EU regulation on the work-free Sunday highlighted during the Let's talk about EU video debate organised by EUobserver the same day that Brussels should not force people into behaving a certain way.

"In the UK, half of the couples are divorced. How are you going to force them with legislation to behave in a certain way?" British Conservative MEP Nirj Deva asked.

His comments were echoed by German Liberal deputy Nadja Hirsch, who stressed that there was no way the EU could find a one-size-fits-all solution to various traditions and social realities in member states. "I think it's important for family to have one day off to come together, but it doesn't have to be a Sunday," she said.

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