CBI calls for MEPs to keep working time opt-out

MEPs must reject proposals that would ban people in Britain from choosing to work more than 48 hours per week, the CBI has urged.

Today (5 November), members of the European Parliament will vote on suggested amendments to the Working Time Directive, which aim to remove the opt-out choice. Currently, workers can decide to opt out of the 48-hour maximum working week. Three million Britons do so, according to government figures.

But the amendments, put forward by Alejandro Cercas, an MEP in the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, would ban staff from choosing to work more than 48 hours a week – whatever their personal or professional circumstances.

John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said: “Some people want to work longer hours, some people don’t. The opt-out gives them a choice.

“These proposed amendments are misguided. In hard times, somebody may want to work extra hours to help support their family. Staff in a company that’s fighting for survival may choose to work longer hours.

“We think people can look at their own circumstances and decide if they want to work longer hours. We call this common sense, and it doesn’t need amending by Brussels.”

The new amendments would force people already working more than 48 hours a week to cut back their hours, potentially hitting their wages via overtime, and will prevent businesses from responding effectively to fluctuating demand, according to the CBI.

Earlier this year, the European Parliament approved the Agency Work Directive, which will see agency workers in the UK get equal employment rights to permanent staff after just 12 weeks. The Working Time Directive, complete with the opt-out, was thought to have been agreed as a package at this time.

The CBI believes that MEPs must respect the deal, carried out in June, and rejects calls to amend the working time text.

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