The UK's opt-out of the Working Time Directive remains in place for now, after talks in Brussels broke up without agreement.
The UK government successfully resisted pressure to accept the removal of the right to optout of the maximum 48-hour working week at a meeting of the EU's Conciliation Committee
The UK and other countries held firm against a European Parliament amendment to the Working Time Directive that would have phased out the opt-out in three years.
Employment relations minister Pat McFadden said: "We have said consistently that we would not give up the opt-out and we have delivered on that pledge.
"We argued that everyone has the right to basic protections surrounding the hours that they work, but also the right to choose those hours. In the current downturn it is more important than ever that people keep the right to put more money in their pockets by working longer hours if they wish. We refused to be pushed into a bad deal for Britain."
Talks will now be reconvened for later this month, with challenges remaining to bridge the gap between member states and the European Parliament.