Headlines: June 2nd, 2005

More than 8 million employees say that long hours at work or stress have been the factors stopping them from taking up some form of training or education in the last three years. The figures from the TUC come as of Europe’s social affairs ministers to discuss reform of the Working Time Directive.Today’s figures have been released to coincide with the meeting but next week the TUC is expected to publish the full details of its broader telephone poll on the barriers to learning. Last month the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education reported a sharp fall in the number of adults currently in learning, though there had been an overall increase in the number participating in education over a three-year period.

The figure of 8 million workers is equivalent to almost one in three of the workforce and Brendan Barber, the TUC General Secretary said it was clear that while most experts agreed the poor skills of too many workers were one of the biggest brakes on UK productivity, long working hours were one of the main obstacles to improving skills.

“We run the risk of getting caught in a vicious circle of long hours working, low skills and low productivity. Long hours is not a sign of economic success but badly organised workplaces with tired inefficient staff,” he said. If Europe’s ministers agreed to phasing out the opt-out from the 48-hour working week, he said, they would be boosting British productivity.

The poll shows that 29 per cent of the workforce agreed with the proposition, ‘My current job has such long hours or so stressful a workload that I do not have the time or energy to take up a course.’ The figure rises to 35 per cent among full time workers.