MEPs set to end UK’s 48 hour week opt-out

MEP’s are ready to end the UK’s opt-out of a maximum 48 hour working week.

The European Parliament is debating the 15-year-old work time directive (WTD) today in Strasbourg and could destroy the fragile compromise reached by the 27 EU governments earlier this year.

Britain agreed to give temporary staff equal rights to permanent staff after just 12 weeks of employment as long as Britain could keep the right to allow people to work more than 48 hours a week.

The full vote will take place on Wednesday and could lead to the European parliament needing to reach a new agreement in February.

This could mean the opt-out clause being abolished, leaving millions of people working illegally long hours.

John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said: “Some people want to work more than 48 hours a week and some do not. We think this should be your choice.

“Unfortunately, some MEPs in Brussels think they should make the choice for you. They want to ban working more than 48 hours per week.”

Fears that this would put a strain on business which relies on their employees working long hours have been rejected by the TUC.

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary said: “Our report shows that the impact on business of ending the opt-out is much exaggerated. Many workers only work a few hours over the limit and employers would get plenty of time to adjust.

“But it would make a difference to hard-pressed staff. Long working hours makes people ill and it is no surprise that most long-hours workers want to reduce their hours, relieving the pressure on their families.”

The big worry is this vote could also add on-call time into the calculation of working hours, a move which would put unbearable strain on the NHS, according to the government.

This would put an end to being ‘on-call’, which allows healthcare workers to rest for periods of time while being on duty while not counting towards working hours.