Protect Sunday as a special day, church group tells EU

A grouping of Europe's Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches has urged the European Union to protect Sunday as a day of rest, as the 27-nation grouping considers new regulations on working time. "Scientific research shows that Sunday is more closely connected with the health of workers than any other day of the week," the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches said in a statement issued on March 16 following a meeting at Nyborg in Denmark.

The commission said it wanted Sunday protected as a weekly rest day in order to enhance both the protection of workers' health and a balance between work and family life.

It noted that the European Parliament and the 27 EU member states are currently negotiating a new directive to set down the hours that employees are able to work.

"According to EU law, Sunday is protected as a weekly rest day for children and adolescents. Therefore, more than any other day of the week, a free Sunday offers the opportunity to be with one's family and friends," the churches' commission stated.

It said a recent survey of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions -- a European Union body -- showed the likelihood of sickness and absenteeism in establishments where staff work on Saturdays and Sundays is 1.3 times greater than in establishments that do not require weekend work.

In 2008, German Bishop Margot Kässmann, a member of CEC's central committee or main governing body, warned of "collective burnout" if society did not maintain a rhythm of work and rest.

"For the deep issues of life we need more than a two minute break," especially given the hectic nature of society symbolized by cell phones and mobile communication, she said.

CEC groups 120 churches, principally Orthodox, Protestant, and Anglican. The Church and Society Commission links CEC members with the institutions of the European Union, the Council of Europe and other international organizations.