In most countries there is a strong difference between the legal maximum and the contractual working time -- that which has been agreed in collective agreements. Most labour laws also provide for exceptions, allowing in some circumstances Sunday work, nine-hour working days and deviant working-time regulations for continuous production processes. In branches with clearly predictable peak and off-peak periods, such as in accountants' offices, staff may work more during the peak and less during the off-peak periods. Temporary and on-call employees may work a lot one week, the next hardly. The law has adjusted somewhat slowly to the practice; generally speaking, collective agreements seem to be more decisive for the (average) working time than the law, but there is considerable variation within branches. In Switzerland and Portugal the contractual working time is longer. In Sweden and the UK the real working time has grown longer, in contrast with other European countries. In Europe considerable differences in working hours exist between retail trade and industry. In England, Belgium, Spain and Portugal shops are open longer than in Germany. Generally, the extension of working hours is playing an important role in the private services sector.
2. Increasing time sovereignty at work could confirm the marginal position of women in the labour market and strengthen the traditional division of roles between men and women. There is a real risk of manipulation of worker groups and individual workers whose position in weak in the labour market.
3. Most of the measures for flexibility of working time do not themselves have a positive impact on employment. For example, the extension of equipment-use time does not create jobs unless it is linked to an expansion in the firm's activities.