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Working time: Commission refers Italy to Court for not respecting EU rules in public health services

20/02/2014 A doctor treating a patient

The European Commission has decided to refer Italy to the EU's Court of Justice for failing to apply correctly the Working Time Directive to doctors in public health services.

Currently, Italian law deprives these doctors of their right to a limit on weekly working hours and to minimum daily rest periods.

Under Italian law, several key rights contained in the Working Time Directive, such as the 48-hour limit to average weekly working time and minimum daily rest periods of 11 consecutive hours, do not apply to "managers" operating within the National Health Service.

The Directive does allow Member States to exclude "managing executives or other persons with autonomous decision-taking powers" from these rights. However, doctors working in the Italian public health services are formally classified as "managers", without necessarily enjoying managerial prerogatives or autonomy over their own working time.

In addition, Italian law contains other provisions and rules that exclude workers in the National Health Service from the right to minimum daily and weekly rest. After receiving several complaints, the Commission requested Italy to take the necessary measures to ensure that national law comply with the Directive in a reasoned opinion sent in May 2013.