On December 23, 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) recognized that Greece, in violation of EU law, allowed doctors to work in hospitals for 24 hours or more continuously, without rest periods. Furthermore, Greece failed to implement weekly working hours not exceeding 48 hours, establishing neither a minimum daily rest time nor a compensatory rest period (full text of the decision here).
Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council provides that weekly employment must not exceed 48 hours on average. Furthermore, according to EU legislation, every worker must have a daily rest period of at least 11 consecutive hours as well as a weekly continuous rest period of at least 24 hours.
10 doctors’ associations filed a complaint with the European Commission, arguing that national legislation required them to work an average of 60 to 93 hours per week, much longer than the EU maximum. In some cases, doctors were even forced to work up to 32 hours continuously at their workplace, without minimum periods of daily and weekly rest.
The Commission thus brought a case against Greece arguing that the country, in violation of EU law, failed to implement a work week that would not exceed 48 hours, and did not establish a minimum daily and weekly rest time.
The Court judged that Greece was indeed failing to comply with labour legislation and recognised that, “workers were obliged under the national legislation, and in practice, to work an average working week of between 60 and 72 hours (salaried doctors) and between 71 and 93 hours (trainee doctors). They were also obliged to work up to 32 hours without interruption at their place of work.”
As an EU member state, Greece must comply with EU law. However, in this case the country violated Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the organization of working time, forcing doctors to work more hours than the maximum prescribed limits, without guaranteed rest periods.
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