Working time in the European Union: Greece

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 15 November 2009

Stathis Tikos

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The latest interventions in the field of labour legislation on working time have highlighted a new aspect of European and Greek labour law, which has emerged in the last ten years, the ever greater domination of the regulations of labour legislation by the pursuit of conditions that will boost enterprises’ competitiveness. One of the main policies on working time is flexible arrangement, according to which working time is calculated in a broader framework, with fluctuations in daily and weekly working hours. Total working time remains constant, but a new situation regarding the level of wages is created, since this practice takes the place of another flexible practice, that of overtime, thus eliminating the additional cost of higher rates for overtime.

This national contribution on working time has been based on a questionnaire that has been made for all member states plus Norway. The national contributions 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.


Table 1a - Usual working hours by employment status and gender, 2nd quarter 2006-2007
2006 Men Women
Hours of full-time employment 43.18 38.84
Hours of part-time employment 21.05 18.39
Table 1b - Usual working hours by employment status and gender, 2nd quarter 2006-2007
2007 Men Women
Hours of full-time employment 42.9 38.3
Hours of part-time employment 20.2 18.2

Source: ESYE, Labour Force Survey.

Table 2 - Paid employment by gender (2nd quarter, 1993, 2004, 2005, 2006)
  1993 2004 2005 2006 Difference 2005-2006
Total 1,979,602 2,746,202 2,784,761 2,834,142 49,381
Men 1,263,895 1,624,755 1,645,872 1,661,000 15,128
Women 715,707 1,121,447 1,138,889 1,173,142 34,253
Percentage of women 36.2 40.8 40.9 41.4 69.4

Source: ESYE, Labour Force Survey.

Table 3a - Paid employment by employment status and gender (2nd quarter, 1993, 2004, 2005, 2006)
Evolution of permanent employment
Permanent employment 1993 2004 2005 2006 Difference 2005-2006
Total 1,773,471 2,404,950 2,449,167 2,526,547 77,380
Men 1,137,314 1,445,877 1,477,830 1,509,427 31,597
Women 636,157 959,073 971,337 1,017,120 45,783
Percentage of women 35.9 39.9 39.7 40.3 59.2

Source: ESYE, Labour Force Survey.

Table 3b - Paid employment by employment status and gender (2nd quarter, 1993, 2004, 2005, 2006)
Evolution of temporary employment
Temporary employment 1993 2004 2005 2006 Difference 2005-2006
Total 206,131 341,252 335,594 307,595 -27,999
Men 126,581 178,878 168,042 151,573 -16,469
Women 79,550 162,374 167,552 156,022 -11,530
Percentage of women 38.6 47.6 49.9 50.7 41.2

Source: ESYE, Labour Force Survey.

Table 3c - Evolution of temporary employment in percentage terms
Percentage of temporary employment 1993 2004 2005 2006
Total 10.4 12.4 12.1 10.9
Men 10 11 10.2 9.1
Women 11.1 14.5 14.7 13.3

Source: ESYE, Labour Force Survey.

Table 4 - Part-time employment, 2nd quarter, 1993, 2004, 2005, 2006
Part-time 1993 2004 2005 2006
Total 161,314 200,560 210,984 261,173
Men 61,951 58,045 58,132 81,200
Women 99,363 142,516 152,853 179,973
Percentage of women 61.6 71.1 72.4 68.9
Percentage of part-timers 1993 2004 2005 2006
Total 4.3 4.6 4.8 5.9
Men 2.6 2.2 2.1 3
Women 7.7 8.6 9.1 10.4

Source: ESYE, Labour Force Survey.

Duration of work

Average weekly hours

Based on available date, the picture of actual weekly working hours has not varied with the passage of time. On the contrary, Greece has kept actual working time at very high levels compared to the other EU member states. This has brought annual working time in Greece calculated on a yearly basis (including the number of days of annual leave and time off) to equally high levels (1800 hours). The decline in working hours appears to be the result of an overall increase in part-time employment, of which women continue to represent a high proportion. In addition, the reinforcement of part-time employment is also associated with the decline in the number of people working very long hours, over 48 per week.

Annual hours worked

The concept of working time is a subject of debate both between policymakers and between the social partners. The question of leave is an example of an issue tackled in bargaining. For example, the texts of the National General Collective Labour Agreements (EGSSEs) contain a provision for increasing the length of leave granted according to years of service in the same company, or total years of prior service. According to the 2000-2001 EGSSE (Article 6), workers who have completed 10 years of service with the same employer, or 12 years total prior service, are entitled to 25 working days of leave (instead of the average of 23 days of annual paid leave).

The number of annual working weeks has not been reduced.

Days of work per week

The norm of the five-day week is the predominant form of working week, except for the case of employees in retail sales. The latest sectoral collective agreement in the banking sector (2006-2007) permits each bank to operate one of its branches on Saturdays, and the employees working Saturdays are entitled to take another day off during the next week.

There has been no trend to reduce the number of days worked per week by increasing the number of hours worked on working days.

Full time and part- time working

In recent years part-time working has been on the rise, and female part-time employees have been the main contributors to the increase. In 1998 legislation (Law 2639/98), part-time employment was also introduced to the public services; therefore the state can be said to actively favour part-time employment. Moreover, the various part-time employment programmes in the public sector appear to be serving the objective of reducing unemployment and increasing employment, particularly for certain categories of the population such as young workers, long-term unemployed and women. There are no gender differences in regulations regarding part-time employment.

Collective Bargaining

One basic objective of the unions that has become more strongly obvious in recent years through the framework of demands of the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) is the implementation of the 35-hour week without loss of pay, which it is believed will meet workers’ present-day needs, be commensurate with technological developments, and also possibly help reduce unemployment. The unions have taken a cautious stance to an across-the-board implementation of part-time working, in the belief that this would result in poor quality work, lower pay and less insurance coverage, creating a grey area between regular employment and unemployment. For the unions, part-time employment can serve to supplement full-time employment by focusing on special categories of the population such as students or working mothers.

Work schedules

The working day and working week

With the exception of retail trade, the standard 8-hour working day is the predominant norm. The same is true of standard working days and weekly working hours. The sector of retail trade, including employees in shops and department stores, is also an exception as far as the working week is concerned.

Non standard work arrangements

Shift and/or weekend working is restricted to those sectors of the economy where they are difficult to avoid.

Employers would like to introduce non-standard schedules to other sectors of the economy. Employers in big department stores have made proposals in this regard, which would allow them to liberalise working hours during the week and open stores on Sundays. However, similar proposals have been rejected both by the employers and by the country’s commercial associations, which represent employers in smaller shops who believe that such a development would increase operating costs. In sectors such as tourism working time is intensified in periods of increased business activity.

Shift working

Shift working is spreading beyond the traditional sectors of the economy to part-time working, where some employees, mainly in the services sector, work periodically in shifts. Certain employer bodies, such as those representing employers in large commercial establishments, have put forward a demand to extend shift working beyond regular daily working hours, for instance by adding an extra shift, or fully liberalising the working week, including work on Sundays.

No single shift working system predominates, and thus a pattern is emerging of a mixed system of periodic shift working, since shift workers share equally in morning, afternoon or night work.

Organization of working time

Flexibility of working time

As individuals, workers are not able to organise there working time. This is a managerial prerogative. Working time is organised collectively, based on the provisions of Law 3385/2205. Furthermore, there is no tendency to work longer hours one day in exchange for an extra day off. Nor are workers able to work whenever they want to, as long as their tasks are completed. Based on the above, it is obvious that for the workers’ side the concept of working time should have negative connotations, since to a large extent any arrangements serve the employers. No distinction is made between workers who are higher up in the hierarchy or are better paid and those who are not, as regards their ability to determine their working time themselves. The same is true when the criterion is workers’ employment status (manual/non-manual workers). By and large, in different working environments (employees in the public or private sector), no distinction is made as regards individuals’ ability to determine their working time, although public servants may arrange with their supervisors a few times a year to delay the start and finish of work by the same amount of time (e.g. arrive at work one hour later and leave one hour later).

Apart from working women with underage children, and mothers of young babies in particular, who have shorter statutory working hours, there are no gender differences as regards working time flexibility.

Other working time issues

Multiple job holding

The practice of multiple job holding is not widespread in Greece: this is partly due to the very long hours worked in regular jobs. Second jobs are sought as a means of supplementing income.

Commuting time

To date commuting time has not been calculated as part of working time. The only instance where commuting time is taken into consideration is in the event of an accident on the way to work, to which workers’ insurance rights apply.

Teleworking was laid down in the 2006 National General Collective Labour Agreement (EGSSE), pursuant to the Framework Agreement on Telework of the European social partners of 16 July 2002. However, objectively the practice of teleworking is not well developed, because apart from the fact that the framework agreement fails to specify the methods and terms of its application to working culture, the enterprise-level collective agreements and institutions such as the works councils, which could specialise and introduce teleworking to workplaces, have not been adequately developed. According to some unofficial estimates, the number of teleworkers is 50,000, representing 1.14% of the country’s whole labour force. A survey performed by INE/GSEE in July 2002 shows that the use of teleworking is particularly limited in extent, since only 1.1% of enterprises pursue such practices. Teleworking appears to have a relatively stronger presence in the industrial sector, in big enterprises and in members of groups of enterprises. Overall the social partners take a guarded attitude to the phenomenon. The unions raise the question of the nature of the teleworking contract, since in practice instances have been observed where traditional employment contracts are replaced by works contracts and the collective regulation of teleworking relations is replaced by individual employment contracts. For the employer organisations, the growth of teleworking mainly raises issues of practical monitoring of employees, the risk that enterprises’ confidential data may leak out, possible financial burdens on enterprises due to misuse of electronic equipment and problems regarding opportunities for vocational training of employees. The social partners agree that there is a need for a clear, specific regulatory framework to regulate the rights and obligations of employers and workers.

Unpaid working hours (of those in work)

No specific debate has developed on the question of unpaid working hours. Intensification of work through very long working hours, high unemployment, and the low level of wages in relation to EU averages act as deterrents to demands such as work-life balance, recognition of home working, etc.

Composite indicators of weekly working hours

In Greece there has not been any particular discussion of this issue, since to date research on working time has not taken such indicators into account.

Stathis Tikos, INE/GSEE

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