The DTI has taken the first steps to extend the Working Time Directive to more than 770,000 employees in previously excluded sectors.
A public consultation on the draft provisions will run for 12 weeks, with responses required by the end of January.
Employment minister Alan Johnson said he wanted to protect more workers, but at the same time ensure that employers could cope with the changes.
Regulations in the directive mean employers must offer staff an average 48-hour week, 11 hours rest between working weeks and a 20-minute rest break if the working day exceeds six hours.
Some of the previously excluded workers include:
• junior doctors
• workers in the rail and offshore sectors
• certain aviation workers