Working time in the European Union: Cyprus

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 15 November 2009

Polina Stavrou

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

The aim is to obtain a fuller insight into differences in working time across the European Union and into developments in average hours worked both in total and by specific sections of the work force in different Member States over recent years. The concern is to investigate the factors underlying the changes that are observed in the survey data collected and, in particular, how terms and conditions of employment are changing in relation to working time. In general, data refers to the working time of those in employment.

The national contribution collects data inter alia from; firstly the EU Labour Force Survey which covers average hours worked by men and women employees both overall and in part-time and full-time jobs, the proportion of men and women in part-time jobs and the relative number of men and women employed under different arrangements as regards working time. Secondly, from the Fourth European Working Conditions Survey conducted by the European Foundation which covers other aspects of working time, including the number of days worked per week, evening, night and weekend working, the organisation of working time, the proportion of people with second jobs, the time spent commuting as well as on unpaid work.

These data are intended to form the basis of the replies to the questions asked but other relevant data have been used where available to supplement these.

Duration of work

Average weekly hours

Does the evidence from the above surveys, and other sources, indicate that, over the past five or ten years, employees are working fewer hours in your country?

According to the EU Labour Force Survey, a slight decrease has been noted in employees’ working time in the 2000-2006 period. However, working time in Cyprus is handled by each individual sector, and there are few cases where working time is not regulated by some law or agreement. Working time in sectors of economic activity where collective bargaining takes place is set via collective agreements at 38 hours per week. In retail sales the weekly working hours are usually 38 and are stipulated in the 2006 Law on regulation of shop opening hours and retail employees’ terms and conditions of employment. For employees in public and semi-state organisations, weekly working hours are set at 37.7 hours in an agreement signed between the Pancyprian Public Employees Trade Union (Παγκύπρια Συντεχνία Δημοσίων Υπαλλήλων, PASYDY) and the government.

The Framework Agreement signed in 1993 between the employers’ and trade union organisations, which provides for a gradual reduction in weekly working hours from 40 to 38 by 1998, is deemed to be of importance.

Is there evidence that any such decline in average working time is due more to compositional changes (e.g. more women entering the labour market and working part-time) than to an across-the-board reduction in hours?

Despite the fact that working time in most workplaces is exclusively regulated by agreements, laws and collective agreements, the slight decline in weekly working hours noted in the EU Labour Force Survey may be explained without any official data by the increased entry of women into part-time employment.

Is there evidence that any fall in average hours over these periods may be due to a reduction in the number of people working very long hours – over 48 per week? Is there evidence that this has been due, to any extent, to the adoption of the EU working time Directive?

Cyprus’s entry into the EU and the adoption of the European Working Time Directive brought no changes in average working hours, since the above-mentioned framework agreement, which is applicable across the board, had already reduced weekly hours to 38 in 1998.

Annual hours worked

To what extent is the notion of annual working time (calculated to take account of annual holidays, including public holidays, as well as average weekly hours) in common use in political or everyday discussion, or in social partner negotiations?

In Cyprus public holidays and annual leave are included in annual working time and are paid. The matter is not open to debate, because leave and holidays have been stipulated by law.

Is there any evidence that the number of weeks worked per year has declined over the past five or ten years due to increased holidays, or time off for other purposes?

As stated above, annual leave and time off are laid down in law and are not subject to arbitrary changes. Annual leave for employees with up to 5 years of service is 20 working days per year, with 6 years of service it is 22 days, with 7-10 years of service 23 working days, and people with over 10 years of service receive 24 working days of leave per year.

Days of work per week

Is the five-day week the predominant norm, as opposed to other patterns – four days, four and a half-days, five and a half-days, six days?

In Cyprus the five-day week has been enshrined in law, both for the private and for the public sector, with the exception of retail sales, where there is a six-day week due to the nature of the trade.

Are there any obvious trends in this respect – for example, to reduce the number of days worked per week, but to increase the number of hours worked each day?

There cannot be said to be any obvious trend in Cyprus to reduce weekly working days in return for an increase in daily working hours. This may occur in some circumstances in retail sales.

Full-time and part-time working

Has part-time working grown relative to full-time working over the past five or ten years?

In Cyprus, part-time working is at very low levels and can in no way be compared in numbers to full-time working. According to the 2006 Labour Force Survey, overall Cypriot part-time workers (employees and self-employed) represent only 7.68% of the labour force, and there are no indications of any sudden upwards changes in this figure.

Are there major gender differences in the patterns of part-time working?

Data from the 2006 Labour Force Survey show that female part-timers represent 70% and male part-timers only 30% of the labour force. Likely reasons for the bigger participation of women in part-time employment are the issue of reconciling family and work, as well as the operation of specific programmes for integrating the non-active population in the labour market in flexible forms of employment.

Does the government encourage part-time working, either ‘passively’ (i.e. through the workings of social security or taxation rules) or ‘actively’ (e.g. in the sense of particular incentives being offered)?

The Cyprus government encourages part-time working through the Cyprus Productivity Centre (Κέντρο Παραγωγικότητας Κύπρου, KEPA), which offers a scheme to promote modern and flexible forms of employment. This scheme is a programme of the European Social Fund and aims at promoting modern and flexible forms of employment as a means of attracting unemployed and economically non-active female resources.

Collective bargaining

What are the main working time concerns and priorities of trade unions in collective bargaining?

Employees’ working time is regulated in collective agreements. However, the principal concern of the trade union organisations is that part-time employment should result from a conscious choice of the employee, rather than be imposed by the employer. The trade unions are making constant efforts to ensure an equal standing for part-time employees, both regarding working conditions and benefits.

Is part-time working generally viewed positively, or accepted reluctantly, by trade unions?

The trade union organisations maintain that when employees work part-time by choice they believe there is no need to intervene. However, in cases where an employer imposes part-time employment on an employee the trade union movement must take measures to suppress this arbitrary act.

Work schedules

The working day and working week

To what extent does the standard ‘full-time’ working day – 08.00/09.00 to 17.00/18.00 - prevail as the norm?

The working day varies from one sector of economic activity to another. In the public sector the 07:30/08:00 – 14:30/15:00 working day applies, except for Thursdays when employees work 2 hours longer. In construction and industry the working day is 07:30 – 15:30/16:00, and in the private sector and services it is 08:00/09:00 – 17:00/18:00.

To what extent does the ‘standard time norm’ of the working week (40 hour, 5 day week) prevail?

The ‘standard time norm’ of the working week in Cyprus is a 38-hour, 5-day week.

Non-standard work arrangements

To what extent are non-standard working time arrangements – evening, night and week-end work - mainly limited to those sectors of the economy where it is difficult to avoid – e.g. shift working in continuous process plants or lunch-time and evening work in restaurants?

Non-standard working-time arrangements have not been noted in sectors of economic activity where shift working is not required.

Is there a tendency for non-standard schedules to enter into other areas of the economy, where it may not be strictly necessary, but where it may have attractions – for employers wishing to make more intensive use of their plant, equipment and other facilities, and for workers wishing to attain a better work-life balance or a more convenient means of taking care of children?

No tendency towards non-standard schedules has been noted in any sector of economic activity, although there may be isolated cases of employees in certain occupations who work different schedules, following agreement with their employers.

To what extent are weekend working and other non-standard working arrangements the result of seasonal work (such as in tourism)?

It is true that due to increased tourism during certain seasons of the year the needs for extra staff increase. That is why all the sectors serving tourism engage seasonal staff to meet the needs created. Such seasonal staff may work on a shift system so as to better serve customers.

Shift working

How important is regular shift working (as opposed to occasional shifts to cope with increased temporary demand) in your country?

Regular shift working is regarded as very important for the harmonious functioning of the state without being affected to any extent by seasonal shift working, because each involves different occupations.

Is shift-working predominantly carried out in specific sectors, and is there any tendency for it to decline (for example as a result of reducing capacity in traditional sectors) or to increase (as employers everywhere seek to make more intensive use of capital investments)?

Shift working relates to specific occupations such as nursing officers, medical officers, police officers, firefighters, forest firefighters, military officers, night watchmen and others where a specific number of individuals are engaged. There is constant need for such personnel, and the number of employees is more likely to rise than to fall.

What kinds of shift systems dominate – regular mornings, afternoon or nights or mixed patterns?

The shift system varies from one occupation to another, but overall the system of mixed shifts predominates.

Organisation of working time

Flexibility of working time

How far do individual workers have influence over their own working time arrangements – for example over the time they start and end work?

It is not a common practice either in the private or in the public sector for employees to set the time they start and end work. However, there may be a few cases where people start to work two hours later if they worked unpaid overtime the previous day, or where people finish work earlier because they did not take a break during the day.

To what extent is it possible to ‘bank’ hours or days of work – for example to work extra hours for a number of days in order to take day(s) off?

There is no clear indication that employees in any sector of economic activity are able to work longer hours for a number of days in order to take a day off.

To what extent can workers determine their own work schedules - in other words, work when they like, so long as the work is delivered on time?

The same is true in this case. There may be some workers who do this, but it certainly does not constitute a trend.

From an employee perspective, can a distinction be drawn between ‘positive’ flexibility concerning working time (i.e. arrangements that suit them) and ‘negative’ flexibility (arrangements that suit their employers), or are most arrangements by mutual consent?

Arrangements can not be made between the employee and the employer if such arrangement is not included in the EU directive on working time or in the collective agreements. Although in cases of increased workload some arrangements may be made, it is not certain whether this is always by mutual consent.

Is there evidence that people with higher ranking, better paid jobs are more likely to have greater flexibility regarding their working time arrangements than those with lower ranking/less well paid jobs?

Since they have more duties and responsibilities, people who work in highly paid jobs often work longer than their set working hours, although they may have the possibility of greater flexibility in their working time arrangements. Less well-paid employees are much more likely to stick faithfully to their working hours and thus ultimately find themselves in a more “advantageous” position.

Are there major differences between non-manual workers and manual workers in terms of such flexibility?

Although there is no clear evidence, due to their nature manual jobs usually have more fixed working hours, and lack any particular opportunities for flexibility.

Are there major differences between public sector and private sector workers in terms of such flexibility?

There is an obvious difference between private-sector and public-sector employees, in that public sector employees have fixed working hours. Public sector employees have no opportunity for flexibility in their working time arrangements, because they work to a predetermined schedule and are monitored. In the private sector there is greater room for flexibility.

Are any major gender differences – for example, are men and women seen to be subject to more or less ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ flexibility?

Since women have more family obligations, they usually have greater flexibility in their working time arrangements than men, and this is regarded as “positive” flexibility.

Other working time issues

Multiple job holding

How widespread is the practice of multiple job holding in your country?

In Cyprus it is not common for workers to hold two or more jobs, because full-time employment is at very high levels, and the unemployment rate is barely 4%. However, some people work at two jobs, either because they have greater financial need or because their wages are low. However, the vast majority of workers hold only one, usually a full-time, job.

Are second or third jobs primarily seen as supplementary sources of income relative to a main job, or are all the different jobs seen as equally valid?

Although, as stated above, the percentages of workers with a second and third job are practically negligible, second jobs are clearly less well paid and are considered to be supplementary to first jobs.

Commuting time

How much time does commuting typically add to the average ‘working day’ (in the sense of time spent away from home)?

In the case of Cyprus it is important to take account of the fact that distances between urban and regional centres are too small to cause problems for commuters. According to the fourth European survey on working conditions, the average time Cypriot workers spend in commuting is around 32 minutes a day, the shortest in any of the EU member states.

Is commuting commonplace for everybody, or does the time spent vary in any systematic way – such as according to the type of job, or whether people live in urban or rural areas?

It should be noted that the time workers spend commuting is not regarded as a particular problem, since distances in Cyprus from one county to another are not long. Even workers who live in rural areas receive no financial assistance from their employers, no matter what their sector of economic activity. The only sector where reference is made to workers’ travelling expenses is construction. In the construction industry there is a special arrangement whereby if a worker works in a county other than the one where the company’s headquarters are located, then the company is automatically obliged either to provide transportation for workers from one county to the other or to pay half their travelling expenses.

Is the development of teleworking (full-time or part-time) seen as a viable and attractive alternative to commuting?

As we stated above, distances in Cyprus do not constitute a problem for the movement of workers to and from their places of work, and thus no counterproposals have been discussed. However, teleworking, as a modern form of work, is at a very low level of development in Cyprus and has not shown any clear tendency to increase.

Unpaid working hours (of those in work)

Is there much debate about the impact of time spent on unpaid work in the home, as well as time spent on paid work, on work-life balance, especially between men and women?

The issue of the time spent on paid and unpaid work in the home does impact the question of workers’ work-life balance. Despite the fact that in Cyprus there are occupations that require some work to be done at home, no debate has taken place on this question because such cases are very few.

Are there pressures for non-paid work to be more recognised, and for the work involved to be shared more evenly between partners?

As already mentioned, there is no debate on the question of unpaid work. Please see previous question.

Composite indicators of weekly working hours

Composite indicators of weekly working hours have been developed for full-time and part-time workers, both male and female, which include time spent in unpaid as well as paid work and time spent commuting. What do you see as the most significant implications of these indicators so far as your country is concerned?

The most important work-related matter of particular concern in Cyprus is female part-time employment. Almost all the social partners promote part-time working as a flexible form of employment aimed at integrating the non-active female population in the labour market and balancing work and family life. The Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO), (Παγκύπρια Εργατική Ομοσπονδία, ΠΕΟ), however, believes that female part-time employment is concentrated in low-paid, low-skilled occupations with no prospects of advancement, resulting in a bigger wage gap between men and women. The Women’s Department of PEO believes that measures on women’s full-time employment should be promoted, with coverage of their terms and conditions of employment by collective agreements, so that women’s work is not viewed as cheap labour. Also supported are measures to boost women’s employment and prevent indirect discrimination in hiring, wages and career advancement. These are measures that will improve women’s position in the labour market and by extension place them on an equal footing with men. An intense debate is also under way on providing support to working women, aimed at helping them meet their family and work obligations, in order to do away with entrenched stereotypes and viewpoints regarding the sectors and areas of women’s employment.

Polina Stavrou, INEK/PEO

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