Czech Junior Doctors Assert EU Law Allows 24-Hour Shifts; Oppose Exemption Efforts

The Junior Doctors Section of the Czech Medical Chamber (CLK) has made a significant declaration, stating that the Czech Republic does not require a European exemption for 24-hour work shifts in hospitals, as they are already permissible under EU law. This statement comes in response to ongoing efforts by the Czech government to secure an EU exemption on this matter. The doctors underscore that it is only Czech law that restricts such extended shifts.

MEP Vit Kankovsky (KDU-CSL) had previously announced the Czech Republic’s pursuit of an exemption from the European Commission during a parliamentary health committee meeting three weeks ago. In their argument, the Junior Doctors cited Joost Korte, the Commission’s Director General for Employment, who confirmed that 24-hour shifts are allowable in the EU under specific conditions, including adequate rest periods. They emphasize that the prohibition of 24-hour shifts is unique to Czech labor law.

In their statement, the Junior Doctors assert, “24-hour shifts do not contradict European law, they contradict Czech law.” They attribute the falsification of labor reports in hospitals over the years to the absence of explicit permission for 24-hour shifts in Czech legislation. Furthermore, the latest amendment to the labor law explicitly prohibits such shifts, which has been in effect since October 1.

Dana Rouckova, the director of the Labor Ministry’s legislation section, confirmed in September that the new Labor Code does not recognize 24-hour services. She clarified that the amendment does not reduce the possibility of 12-hour shifts, which have long been established in the Czech Republic. Nevertheless, some doctors serving as MPs in parliament have labeled the use of 24-hour shifts in hospitals as an “open secret,” suggesting they are employed in violation of the Labor Code.

The amendment to the Labor Code, largely transposing the European directive on work and family life harmonization, encompasses various changes affecting working conditions, including the allowance of 24-hour shifts – a provision that doctors are eager to retain. However, it also impacts overtime work, potentially doubling the maximum voluntary overtime hours per year for health professionals from the existing 416 hours.

In protest of this change, the Junior Doctors Section has mobilized, with over 5,600 doctors pledging to refuse overtime work in December. Health Minister Vlastimil Valek (TOP 09) has pledged to restore the maximum overtime hours to their original level. Collaborating with Labor and Social Affairs Minister Marian Jurecka (KDU-CSL), they intend to submit an amendment to parliament in the coming week, with Valek scheduled to meet with Junior Doctors chairman Jan Prada on Wednesday to address the concerns raised by medical professionals.

Article by Prague Forum

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