The negative effect of excessive working hours on the health and safety of workers is twofold. Long working hours with reduced rest periods cause mental and physical stress amongst employees, which in turn results in higher accident/injury rates.
What are working hours?
Working hours refer to the time during which the persons employed are at the disposal of the employer. It includes regular and overtime working hours and excludes rest periods and public holidays. 
Why this matters?
The negative effect of excessive working hours on the health and safety of workers is twofold. Long working hours with reduced rest periods cause mental and physical stress amongst employees, which in turn results in higher accident/injury rates. 
The definition of working hours is addressed by local laws and regulations and varies from country to country. A few examples are:
- the Labour Law of the People's Republic of China 
- the EU’s Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC)
How – procedures to manage working hours
- Policy. Establish a company policy that ensures compliance with local laws and regulations (and collective agreements if applicable) on working hours.
- Complaint Management System. Provide workers with channels to report related complaints. All persons involved in processing complaints are responsible for keeping reports confidential and ensuring that a person does not suffer prejudice, embarrassment, or retaliation as a result of submitting a complaint. All complaints must be investigated and appropriate preventive, corrective, and disciplinary actions should be taken.
- Automated time and attendance systems. Record the clock-in/clock-out times of employees to keep fair and realistic records of their working hours. In case a company is unable to install automated systems, it should ensure that the entry and exit times of its employees are adequately recorded.
- Incentive. Establish an incentive scheme to reward workers/teams who successfully complete tasks efficiently without clocking up excessive overtime. The incentive scheme should be attractive enough to equal the additional salary earned during overtime. In addition, it is also helpful to improve workers’ after work recreation life, for example by adding recreation facilities in the canteen.
Example of a working hour policy
“[Company name] will not exceed the maximum hours of work prescribed by law and will compensate overtime appropriately.”
“Employees will not be required to work more than 40 hours a week, including overtime, except in extraordinary business circumstances with their consent or where the nature of the position requires such work, as for example is the case for employees in executive, managerial or professional positions. In countries where the maximum workweek is shorter, that standard shall apply. Employees should be allowed at least one day off per seven-day week.”
Click here to read the A.P. Moller - Maersk Global Labour Principles (Chapter 6. Working hours).
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