Council Directive 93/104/EC of 23 November 1993 concerning certain aspects of the organization of working time lays down minimum health and safety requirements for the organization of working time and applies to all sectors of activity. It regulates minimum periods of daily rest, weekly rest and annual leave, as well as rest breaks and maximum weekly working time. It also contains various requirements concerning night work, shift work and patterns of work.
The Council adopted the directive on the basis of Article 118a of the Treaty.
The United Kingdom asked the Court to annul the directive on the grounds, in particular, that there was an error as to the choice of legal basis and that the principle of proportionality had been infringed.
After examining the scope of Article 118a, the Court holds that where the principal aim of a measure is the protection of the health and safety of workers, that article must be the legal base, albeit such a measure may have ancillary effects on the establishment and functioning of the internal market.
It also considers, on the basis in particular of the wording of Article 118a, that this provision cannot, contrary to the United Kingdom's contention, be given a restrictive interpretation.
As for the contested directive itself, the Court distinguishes between the second sentence of Article 5 and the other provisions of the directive.
The second sentence of Article 5 provides that the minimum weekly rest period must in principle include Sunday. The Court finds that the Council has failed to explain why Sunday, as a weekly rest day, is more closely connected with the health and safety of workers than any other day of theweek. The second sentence of Article 5 of the directive must therefore be annulled.
Subject to that finding, the Court considers that in terms of its aim and content, the directive's principal objective is the protection of the health and safety of workers by the imposition of minimum requirements for gradual implementation.
It therefore holds that the directive, apart from the second sentence of Article 5, was properly adopted on the basis of Article 118a.
As to the argument that the principle of proportionality was infringed, the Court finds that, in the sphere of the protection of the health and safety of workers, the minimum requirements laid down by the Council may go beyond the lowest level of protection established by the various Member States.
Moreover, the Council has a wide discretion in an area which, as here, involves social policy choices and requires it to conduct complex assessments.
Within the confines of its limited power of judicial review, the Court holds that the Council did not commit any manifest error, was not guilty of a misuse of powers and did not manifestly exceed the bounds of its discretion.