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Working long hours and health

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 18 June 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:1581
  1. J M Harrington

    Whether working long hours adversely affects health has been debated for many years. A recent European Council directive on working time (93/104/EC) has heightened the controversy. Its proposals include a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in each 24 hour period, at least one rest day a week, four weeks' annual leave, and a restriction on night work to a maximum of eight hours on average. With some exceptions (including doctors in training), employees would, under the directive, have the legal right to refuse to work more than 48 hours a week. The directive would be implemented under article 118A of the Treaty of Rome, which requires the directive to be based on health and safety considerations and not general employment conditions. The British government disputes that this is a health and safety measure and is challenging its legal basis before the European Court of Justice.

    The topic has attracted further attention recently with the death of a junior hospital doctor after an extended period on duty, and again in the aftermath of the untimely …

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